Roland Garros

Osaka decides to take time out from tennis after withdrawing from French Open

Naomi Osaka pulled out of the French Open ahead of her second round match after the four Grand Slam tournaments threatened her with possible bans for not talking to journalists after her matches at the French Open.
Naomi Osaka pulled out of the French Open ahead of her second round match after the four Grand Slam tournaments threatened her with possible bans for not talking to journalists after her matches at the French Open. Martin Bureau AFP

World number two Naomi Osaka said she was taking a break from the women's tennis circuit after dramatically pulling out of the French Open in Paris.

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On Wednesday, just before the start of the second Grand Slam tournament of the season, Osaka said on social media she would not attend post-match interviews with journalists in Paris.

She said the questions from reporters at tournaments around the world often provoked doubts when she was trying to be positive.

The 23-year-old was fined 13,000 euros on Sunday for skipping her media interview after her first round victory over Patricia Maria Tig.

Bosses of the four most prestigious tournaments on the circuit then warned her she faced further punishments and possible bans from their competitions if she continued with her stance.

Less than 24 hours after they bared their teeth, Osaka bared her soul.

“Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety. ... I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media,” she said on social media.

She said she had suffered long bouts of depression since winning the first of her four Grand Slam titles at the US Open in 2018.

“First and foremost we are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka,” said Gilles Moretton, chief of the French tennis federation - which organises the French Open.

“The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland Garros is unfortunate. We wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery. And we look forward to having Naomi in our tournament next year.”

Under a Grand Slam tournament code of conduct, players are required to attend news conferences after their games whether they win or lose. Article III. H says they can be fined and further sanctions become possible if the behaviour continues.

Osaka, who earned around 30 million euros last year, could have sustained the financial hit of fines. But the threat of exclusion from the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open prompted a reevaluation of her career.

“I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly,” Osaka wrote. “I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer."

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