“I Had No Choice”: Naomi Osaka Opens Up to Billie Jean King About Her French Open Withdrawal

Published 09/01/2021, 5:30 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


The US Open 2021 got off to a thrilling start yesterday. Headlining the competition is its star-studded lineup, which prepares to don the courts of New York. However, before her round one victory, defending champion Naomi Osaka opened up about an event that gripped the sporting world earlier this year.

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Japanese international, Naomi Osaka is one of the most exciting Gen Z stars, leading the charge of the New Era. Hence, she is backed by a tremendous fan following wherever she goes. However, against popular belief, Naomi herself isn’t a fan of the unprecedented attention she receives. Earlier this year, she opted out of the French Open, following a dispute with the media. Her decision stirred world headlines as it soon turned into a global movement.

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Conversing about the same with a panel of Billie Jean King, Nick Kyrgios, and Mardy Fish, Osaka opens up on her decision that became a cause for a change.

“I had no choice”: Naomi Osaka

Despite playing in the form of her life, Naomi withdrew from the Roland Garros when she found her mental wellbeing at a risk. Her decision was met with mixed reactions, as many hailed her brave move, while some criticized her for the same. Regardless, the 23-year-old took a sabbatical from the sport then, and now talks about how she had no choice but to do so.

Opening on what went down back in June, she said, “I don’t think I really had a choice tbh. I’m saying with regards to the French Open because In that whole incident I feel like everything got scaled very large. I honestly don’t think I had a choice but to withdraw.” 

Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Tennis Training – Ariake Tennis Park, Tokyo, Japan – July 19, 2021 Naomi Osaka of Japan during training REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

Even as Naomi faced backlash for her decision, entities from the sporting world came to support her. From the likes of Serena Williams to Formula 1 legend, Lewis Hamilton, she received enormous support, demanding a collective change, giving importance to players’ mental health.

WATCH STORY: Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Other Tennis Stars Funny Moments With Their Kids

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Can Naomi defend her title at the US Open?

Sadly, Naomi is still in search of a noteworthy campaign ever since her return. Her comeback surely turned heads, but a title has been far from her reach. From Tokyo to the Western Southern Open, early defeats and surprising exits have riddled her campaign.

Aug 30, 2021; Flushing, NY, USA; Naomi Osaka of Japan warms up before playing against Marie Bouzkova of Czech Republic in the first round on day one of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Undoubtedly, given her rich history in the US Open, she is the favorite for the title once again. However, her recent run of form has not been as promising as fans would expect it to be. Can Naomi live up to her rank and mark her return to the court with a title that means so much to her?

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Melroy Fernandes

280 articles

Melroy Joseph Fernandes is a Tennis author at EssentiallySports. A Mass Media graduate, Melroy has been a content writer for the past 6 years, curating stories for several brands, starting from his own. At the age of 17, Melroy began his writing Journey with Team BIB, an event management company for everything Art and Entertainment.

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