“Horrible Situation”: Martina Navratilova Explains How Naomi Osaka’s French Open 2021 Withdrawal Changed Everything

Published 06/01/2021, 8:19 AM EDT
Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – May 30, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka in action during her first round match against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig REUTERS/Christian Hartmann


In hugely disturbing news for the fans and the tournament organizers, Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the ongoing 2021 French Open. Osaka’s decision, causing a major shock, comes just two days after her first-round victory over Patricia Maria Țig.

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Although Osaka had divided everyone’s opinion over her decision to boycott the press conferences at the French Open citing mental health concerns, her recent announcement lifts the lid on the dark side of challenges faced by athletes.

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

Through a Twitter post, the 4-time Grand Slam categorically revealed she has been suffering long bouts of depression and anxiety since the 2018 US Open. Hence, she wanted to skip her media duties to protect her mental well-being. However, the resulting uproar over her statement last week led to her deciding to pull out from the tournament.

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Navratilova emphasizes with Naomi Osaka

WTA legend, Martina Navratilova expressed her opinion over Osaka’s withdrawal from the tournament during a talk show on Tennis Channel. The American feels the entire argument around Osaka’s decision to skip press conferences has changed after the 23-year-old mentioning about her struggle with depression.

“When she said the word depression, that’s when everything changed. Horrible situation, I think everything kind of snowballed but clearly this is more than about doing a press conference after a match or not doing a press conference after a match,” said Navratilova.

Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – May 30, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka in action during her first round match against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Navratilova voiced her support for Osaka and lauded the tennis star’s courage to talk about her grappling with depression, a condition often trivialized. She hopes people across the globe would empathize with Osaka and give her the required space.

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“Support her and appreciate the strength that it took to say that out loud. Now the whole world knows about it. People say it’s easy for you, famous and rich, no, the whole world knows your struggles and that does not make it easier,” added Navratilova.

In fact, Serena Williams, Billie Jean King, Coco Gauff, and Sloane Stephens extended their support to Osaka and appreciated her for speaking out about mental health issues.

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For now, Osaka plans to step away from the court for some time and then upon her return discuss with the WTA, the ways to make it easy for players suffering from mental health concerns.

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Kshitij Tayal

397 articles

Kshitij Tayal is a tennis author at EssentiallySports. Having played district-level tennis competitions, Kshitij is also a tenured journalist of the sport with over four years of experience. At EssentiallySports, he pens down some thought-provoking pieces on players and tournaments across the ATP and WTA.

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