If you’re a tennis fan, you know that the French Open is officially upon us. The famed tennis tournament, also known as Roland-Garros kicked off this past week in Paris, and our reigning court queen, Naomi Osaka has made her return to the competition. In 2021, she bravely refused to speak to the press citing personal concerns over her mental well being before withdrawing from the second round.
This time around, we see Osaka smiling, and laughing with reporters during a pre-tournament French Open news conference — even as she addressed her last visit, which quickly became more about her mental state off court than her game.
“I’m not going to lie. When I first came here, I was very worried,” Osaka said at the conference. I was just kind of worried if there would be people that — of course, I also didn’t like how I handled the situation — but I was worried that there were people that I offended in some way, and I would just kind of bump into them. But I think everyone has been really positive, for the most part. I’m not really so sure. I was also very worried about this press conference, because I knew I’d get a lot of questions about this.”
If you recall, Osaka refused to “do any press during Roland Garros,” due to her anxiety, and later revealed that she suffered from long bouts of depression. She spoke up about how being forced to do interviews after a loss can create self doubt, prompting many other athletes to share similar sentiments. Gymnast Gabrielle Douglas also committed to a break from competing and extended her support to Osaka.
“Every person knows what they need to do to fix themselves, to heal themselves, and everyone’s different,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “Being an athlete, we go through so much already. If you need to step back, that’s what you need to do.”
According to the Associated Press, Osaka’s decision to skip the mandated news conference last year ended up costing her a 15,000 fine. She was additionally threatened by all four Grand Slam tournaments with the possibility of future disqualification and suspension.
The 23 year old tennis star and mental health advocate made her return to the game earlier this year at the Australian Open where despite her strong start, she ended up losing in the third round to Amanda Anisimova, who coincidentally is her first opponent in Paris. While her ranking has fallen, mainly due to inaction and not for a lack of effort or talent, Osaka continues to display her resilience, determination, and love of the game.
“For me, there is no way I’m not going to play this tournament, so of course, you kind of have to manage things. But at the same time, I’m going to pop a few painkillers. ... I have actually played a lot of Grand Slams with something,” she said. “So I think maybe there is a possibility I could play really good when I have an injury, because I feel like I don’t have anything to lose.”