The four-time grand slam champion withdrew from the French Open this week, sharing a statement that revealed she has been suffering from depression since 2018 and will take some time away from the court.
“I never wanted to be a distraction,” she said. “I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly.
“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows that I'm introverted, and anyone that's seen me at tournaments will notice that I'm often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.”
Over the weekend, Morgan published an opinion piece in the Daily Mail in which he accused her of “exploiting” mental health to “silence” the media, and branded her “petulant”.
His comments have drawn the ire of tennis fans but also MP Dawn Butler, author Bernadine Evaristo, and several academics and mental health campaigners.
“How does not speaking to the media silence the media?” Butler asked. “Knowing your self worth and protecting your mental health is to be admired.”
She added: “Abuse is not part of the job. And being empowered not to put up with s*** is to be applauded and admired.”
Irish-American political scientist Donald Moynihan accused Morgan of hypocrisy by pointing out that the TV presenter recently stormed out of his own show over some mild criticism.
“Piers Morgan, who literally walked off the set in the middle of his own show after getting the mildest possible pushback for his obsessive criticism of a female POC, has some thoughts about how a female POC should honour her professional obligations,” he tweeted.
Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo tweeted: “Just when people are opening up about their mental health issues in greater numbers for the first time in history, [Piers Morgan is] attacking them, eg: two women of colour, because he knows he's got the racist misogynists backing him. What a troll.”
Dr Julia Grace Patterson commented: “Piers Morgan never lets an opportunity to undermine a woman go to waste, does he?”
“Piers Morgan walked off his own show’s set after 90 seconds of gentle critique but can’t understand why Naomi Osaka withdrew from one tennis match after years of media ignited mental health struggles,” author and human rights activist Qasim Rashid tweeted.
Morgan stepped down from his role as GMB co-host in March, following a row over his remarks about the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.
The controversial presenter had made repeated criticisms of her, but sparked thousands of Ofcom complaints when he said he “didn’t believe a word” of Markle saying she’d be left with “suicidal thoughts” during her time as a royal.
Mental health charity Mind called his comments “concerning” and “disappointing”.