Naomi Osaka penned an essay about mental health in which she asked the press to give her 'privacy and empathy'
Naomi Osaka broke her silence following her French Open controversy with an essay penned for TIME.
In the piece published Thursday, the four-time Grand Slam champion talks mental health and anxiety.
She also said media is in "need of a refresh" and implored the press to offer "privacy and empathy."
Naomi Osaka is back in the spotlight.
After a hiatus that saw her drop out of the French Open and withdraw from Wimbledon, the four-time Grand Slam champion broke her weeks-long silence with an essay she penned for TIME. In the piece, Osaka tackles everything from mental health and her "great anxiety" to her first Olympic Games and the need for reform in sports media.
"In the past few weeks, my journey took an unexpected path," Osaka wrote, "but one that has taught me so much and helped me grow."
"The world is as divided now as I can remember in my short 23 years," she added. "Issues that are so obvious to me at face value, like wearing a mask in a pandemic or kneeling to show support for anti-racism, are ferociously contested. I mean, wow. So, when I said I needed to miss French Open press conferences to take care of myself mentally, I should have been prepared for what unfolded."
Osaka stepped away from the court - and the public gaze - following a public squabble with the leaders of the French Open over her press obligations. The 23-year-old tennis superstar "wanted to skip press conferences at Roland Garros to exercise self-care and preservation of my mental health," she wrote.
She had released a statement on her media blackout ahead of the Grand Slam, but the tournament didn't budge and fined her $15,000 when she refused to attend her first press conference. Soon after, she retired from the French Open and explained in a social media post that she gets "huge waves of anxiety" before speaking to the media and had experienced bouts of depression in the lead-up to the tournament.
Osaka also insisted that she "never wanted to be a distraction" from one of the most distinguished tennis events of the year.
"I felt under a great amount of pressure to disclose my symptoms - frankly because the press and the tournament did not believe me," Osaka wrote for TIME. "I do not wish that on anyone and hope that we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones. I also do not want to have to engage in a scrutiny of my personal medical history ever again."
"So I ask the press for some level of privacy and empathy next time we meet," she added.
Most likely, that next time will take place on the world's biggest sports stage. Osaka is competing for the host country at this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The women's singles tennis competition begins on Saturday, July 24, and will run until the end of the month. Should Osaka survive the gauntlet of international stars competing for their countries and advance to the gold-medal match, the first-time Olympian will take Centre Court at Ariake Tennis Park on Saturday, July 31.
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