“Mental Health is Health”: Serena Williams’ Husband Supports Naomi Osaka in French Open Withdrawal Row

Published 06/01/2021, 3:30 PM EDT
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

Alexis Ohanian, Reddit co-founder and the husband of 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, has weighed in on the controversy around the withdrawal of Naomi Osaka from the French Open.


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The women’s World No.2 and the reigning Australian Open announced her pullout from Roland-Garros on Twitter, in what is believed to be a fallout of the furore following her press boycott, citing mental health.

Supporting Naomi Osaka, Alexis Ohanian has sought focus on mental health


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In a long tweet, detailing the reasons for her Roland-Garros withdrawal, Osaka revealed that she had suffered bouts of mental illness since lifting the 2018 US Open title and has also been battling anxiety when it comes to dealing with the press.

The 23-year-old Japanese received a lot of sympathy and support from tour mates, including Serena and 17-year-old tennis prodigy Coco Gauff, and fans alike.

To Osaka’s post, Ohanian, who now prefers to be called a self-made global investor, said the issue calls for a focus on mental health, which is part of an athlete’s overall health and wellbeing.

“Mental health is health. Wishing @naomiosaka all the best,” Serena’s husband wrote.

He also called the sports leagues and sports media to take note and adapt to the internet tech and how it has given athletes of today more “leverage than ever before”.

Support, protect, invest in athletes: Ohanian on Osaka row

Ohanian also spoke of a need to support, protect and invest in sportspersons in this day and age.

“Also important for sports leagues & sports media to take note: the unbundling (thanks to internet tech) is happening to every single industry — this new era is one where athletes will have more and more leverage than ever before; support them, protect them, invest in them,” he wrote.

Osaka wrote that she is an introvert and often struggles to find speech in a room full of journalists.

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

Watch This story: “Horrible Situation”: Martina Navratilova Explains How Naomi Osaka French Open 2021 Withdrawal Changed Everything


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Earlier, in an emailed explainer to the organizers of the French Open, explaining her decision not to attend media briefings or press conferences, the Japanese star said somewhat being grilled by reporters is the same as kicking someone who is already down.


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She defended the move, citing the need for preservation of mental stability.


Priyabrata Chowdhury

1017 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.