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Star athlete Naomi Osaka said that she will no longer be partaking in the French Open tennis tournament in a statement posted to her Twitter account on Monday. The announcement was made after she decided not to speak to the press for interviews at the event in an effort to prioritize her mental health. Because of this decision, Naomi was fined $15,000 by tennis officials.
"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," she said in the statement. "I never wanted to be a distraction and accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly."
The 23-year-old also opened up about "suffer[ing] long bouts of depression" since her controversial win against Serena Williams at the US Open in 2018, which played a part in her decision of not speaking to the media this time around.
"If the organizations think that they can just keep saying, 'Do the press or you're gonna be fined,' and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are the centerpiece of their corporation then I just gotta laugh," she said.
The French Tennis Federation put out its own statement on Monday, stating that Naomi's withdrawal from the tournament was "unfortunate" and that they were "sorry and sad" for her.
"We wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery and we look forward to having Naomi in our tournament next year," said Gilles Moretton, president of the French Tennis Federation. He also said that the four Grand Slam tournaments and tennis tours "remain very committed to all athletes’ well-being and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience," including the media.
According to a statement from the U.S. Tennis Association, the French Tennis Federation, the All England Lawn Tennis Club and Tennis Australia, Naomi was asked to reconsider her position by officials at the French tournament, who said they were "unable to engage" with her.
"Here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences," Naomi said. "I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that. I wrote privately to the tournament apologizing and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense."
Naomi closed her statement by saying she's taking some time off the tennis court to prioritize her mental health. She's even open to working with tennis organizations to improve athletes' experiences in the future.
"When the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans," she said.
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