“Struggle is Real”: Boris Becker Changes His Stance on Naomi Osaka Episode

Published 07/04/2021, 6:30 AM EDT
Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – May 30, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts during her first round match against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig REUTERS/Christian Hartmann


Tennis great Boris Becker has stressed the need for a bigger conversation around mental health in sports, saying he is happy that the issue got traction in the wake of the shock withdrawal of Naomi Osaka from Roland-Garros this year.

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The current World No.2 shared a long note on Twitter, announcing her pullout from the women’s draw after being threatened with expulsion by the French Open organizers over her decision not to do press during the tournament.

Earlier, in an emailed explainer to the French Tennis Federation, she had detailed her reasons to skip press conferences at the event saying it was in the interest of preserving her mental sanity.

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However, with the organizers sticking to their guns and even throwing the tournament rulebook at her after levying a fine of $15,000 for foregoing her press obligations, the Japanese star decided to withdraw.

Announcing her pullout, she revealed that she had been battling mental illness over the last couple of years and even experienced bouts of anxiety attacks when it came to meeting the press.

Tennis is starting to understand mental health after Naomi Osaka struggles

Osaka’s decision evoked empathy from her peers, including Serena Williams, Coco Gauff and Novak Djokovic, as well as sponsors and fans. 

But there were those who reminded her that fulfilling media obligations is what every professional athlete signs up for.

Speaking to leading English daily The Guardian, Becker said that the sense he got in the light of the Osaka controversy is that the sport is “starting to understand mental health”.

He said the mental health issue is “real” and the minders of the sport need to do everything in their powers to ensure the players are not under undue stress.

Tennis -WTA Premier 5 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 12, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka looks dejected after losing her second round match against Jessica Pegula of U.S. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

“There’s been a lot of discussion about Naomi Osaka pulling out of the French Open because of bouts of depression. It’s very worrying, I think the struggle is real,” the six-time Grand Slam champion said.

Osaka saga shows keeping good mental and physical health paramount for athletes

Becker added that it’s often tough for athletes to handle the pressure of expectations that comes from winning.

The champion added keeping oneself in good physical and mental health means a lot more than winning titles.

Watch This Link: Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Naomi Osaka and Other WTA Players’ Maiden Tour Title

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“It’s easier said than done — with winning comes expectations and responsibilities – but feeling good about yourself will always be more important than winning. The tennis community has to make sure they’re not putting players under too much pressure,” Becker said.

DIVE DEEPER

“Where’s the F**king Pressure?”: Boris Becker Slams Naomi Osaka for Pulling Out of Wimbledon Championships 2021

28 days ago

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Osaka skipped this year’s Wimbledon Championships to give herself more time to recover from her mental illness and is due to return at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

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Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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