“Dealing With This Since 2018”: Former WNBA Champion Lauds Naomi Osaka After French Open 2021 Withdrawal

Published 06/09/2021, 5:47 AM EDT
Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – May 30, 2021 Picture taken May 30, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts during her first round match against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig REUTERS/Christian Hartmann


Japanese World No. 2 Naomi Osaka brought many unacknowledged issues into the limelight with her French Open 2021 withdrawal. Most significantly, her standing up for mental health has garnered support from all around the world. Recently, the WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike voiced her opinion on the Osaka situation.

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Since 2016, Ogwumike has been the president of the WNBA Players Association and one of the all-time most successful women basketball players. Thus, her personal experience, along with being the leader of the sport, has a lot to do with what she had to say.

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Ogwumike explains how every woman athlete resonates with Naomi Osaka’s feelings

In a one-on-one interview, Nneka joined her younger sister and Los Angeles Sparks’ teammate, Chiney, and talked about Osaka. She expressed that many things resurfaced in her mind after the four-time Grand Slam champion made her revelation.

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

Nneka began, “I think we all resonate with what she was expressing… She felt the need to do that; she had the agency to be able to come out with how she felt and draw it back to her experiences, not just in that particular moment.”

Furthermore, the Sparks’ power forward relayed the many behind-the-scenes conditions women athletes need to follow in front of the media. Nneka said, “You can’t be your whole self.”

She also stressed that it is not as simple as going to the gym, hoops, and then going home, or going to the game as many presume. And as the president, she confirmed that mental health had been a reality even before the bubble life.

For the same, Nneka lauded Osaka for playing at the highest level despite going through her issues since 2018.

“She’s just now talking about what she’s been dealing with, but she’s been performing at such a high level for the past three years,” the Nigerian-American basketball player said. “And most athletes do that, especially women athletes because we juggle so much more than just playing.”

Conclusively, Nneka stated that Naomi has been “vulnerable to the point where people can truly understand” the athletes’ experiences.

Watch this story: Toughest Moments Of ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal at French Open

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What’s ahead for Naomi Osaka in 2021?

After her French Open 2021 pull-out, Osaka also withdrew from the WTA Berlin, her first grass-court tournament. She is currently at home in Los Angeles.

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

Tennis-wise, Osaka is one of the torch-bearers of the WTA’s future. Hence, the entire tennis community wants her to come back to the court. Hopefully, she will be ready to compete in time for the Wimbledon Championships 2021.

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Purav Joshi

1123 articles

Purav Joshi is a Tennis author at EssentiallySports. Having a degree in Films, Television and Media Production, he guided his passion for writing and journalism into the sport of aces and rallies. With over 2 years of experience as a copywriter, Purav has authored over 500 tennis articles.

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