“Her Walking Away is Fine”: Six-Time Grand Slam Champion Backs Naomi Osaka for Pulling Out of French Open 2021

Published 06/11/2021, 9:08 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


Indian tennis star Sania Mirza has shared her thoughts on the controversy around the withdrawal of Naomi Osaka from this year’s French Open. The current World No.2 pulled out of the women’s draw at Roland-Garros after being threatened with expulsion over her decision not to do press during the tournament.

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The Japanese star had announced that she would be skipping all media commitments, citing the need for mental sanity and saying that facing the press at times was akin to being kicked around when already down.

She even emailed an explainer to the French Tennis Federation (FFT), explaining her reasons for not doing press. However, the FFT issued a statement imposing a fine of $15000 on her and threatening her with expulsion from the tournament if she continued with her rigid stance vis-a-vis the media.

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Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open after row over her media boycott

To that, Osaka announced her withdrawal from the event on Twitter, also revealing in a long note, that she had been battling mental illness for the last couple of years and had faced bouts of anxiety when it came to dealing with the press.

Weighing in on Osaka’s withdrawal and its fallout, India’s most accomplished women’s tennis player said regardless of what or how much the Japanese star may have achieved in the sport, she still feels the emotional vulnerabilities of a 23-year-old.

“You still have the same kind of feelings and emotions as any regular 23-year-old regardless of what you have achieved on the field,” Mirza said.

She added that though the reigning Australian Open champion was well within her rights to withdraw from the tournament, the timing of it might be called into question.

Tennis -WTA Premier 5 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 12, 2021, Japan’s Naomi Osaka in action during her second road match against Jessica Pegula of U.S. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

However, she said the player concerned is the best judge of when to come out with her mental sickness or withdraw from the field of play.

Timing of Osaka withdrawal may be questionable: Sania Mirza

“Her walking away is fine, but the timing of her walking away may be questionable. But I think she was ready and she’s really the best judge of knowing when it’s time to walk away or when to come out with it,” Mirza said.

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Currently ranked 161st in singles, the Indian revealed that she struggled to come out with her mental illness for 12 years.

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“I wasn’t able to come out and say it for 12 years of my life,” Mirza said.

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Osaka received an outpouring of support from the likes of Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Coco Gauff and Novak Djokovic in the light of her withdrawal from Roland-Garros.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

998 articles

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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