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In May, Naomi Osaka announced that she was withdrawing from the French Open after she was fined $15,000 for skipping a press conference following her first-round win in the tournament. In June, she withdrew from Wimbledon, and her team released a statement that she was "taking some personal time with friends and family." On July 8, Osaka opened up about her decision to take care of her mental health in a personal essay for Time magazine.
The tennis champ, who has won four Grand Slam titles, most recently the Australian Open in 2021, said she has always had a great relationship with the media. Even though she said she hasn't been media trained, Osaka has given numerous one-on-one interviews to the media. "This was never about the press, but rather the traditional format of the press conference," she said, adding that in her opinion, "the press-conference format itself is out of date and in great need of a refresh. I believe that we can make it better, more interesting and more enjoyable for each side."
She decided to skip the press conference to "exercise self-care and preservation of [her] mental health," and said that "perhaps we should give athletes the right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on a rare occasion without being subject to strict sanctions."
Fellow athletes and public figures came to Osaka's defense, and she gave a shoutout to Michelle Obama, Michael Phelps, Steph Curry, Novak Djokovic, and Meghan Markle. Phelps in particular, who has been so vocal about his own mental health, told the 23-year-old that by speaking up about her mental health, she might have saved a life. "If that's true, then it was all worth it."
Osaka said she is excited to play in the Tokyo Olympics, where she will be representing Japan, and hopes to make her Japanese fans proud. And while she added that she is "naturally introverted" and "uncomfortable" being the face of mental health as an athlete, she wants people to know "it's OK to not be OK, and it's OK to talk about it. There are people who can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel."
Check out Time for her full essay.