<p>The four-time grand slam winner quit the French after struggling with her mental health</p>

The four-time grand slam winner quit the French after struggling with her mental health

Meghan Markle offered support after I quit the French Open, says Naomi Osaka

The Duchess of Sussex joins Will Smith, Michelle Obama and Novak Djokavic in offering support to the Japanese tennis player

Joanna Whitehead
Friday 09 July 2021 09:26

Naomi Osaka has revealed that Meghan Markle reached out to offer her support after she withdrew from the French Open citing mental health difficulties.

The four-time grand slam winner said that the Duchess was one of a number of high-profile figures to offer “kind words” following her departure from the major tennis tournament.

Michelle Obama, Will Smith, Novak Djokavic, US swimmer Michael Phelps and NBA basketball player Steph Curry were just some of the celebrities to contact Osaka with supportive words.

In a personal essay for Time magazine’s Olympic preview issue, the 23-year-old revealed that she had “suffered long bouts of depression” since her first major tournament victory in 2018 when she defeated Serena Williams at the US Open.

The Japanese player admitted that speaking to the media triggered “huge waves of anxiety”.

“I love the press; I do not love all press conferences,” she wrote.

“However, in my opinion (and I want to say that this is just my opinion and not that of every tennis player on tour), the press-conference format itself is ... in great need of a refresh,” she argued.

Osaka acknowledged the “privileged” nature of being a professional tennis player, adding that it also came with a high level of scrutiny.

“Athletes are human”, she stated.

The self-confessed “introvert” went on to propose that professional tennis players should be entitled to a small number of “sick days” per year.

“I have numerous suggestions to offer the tennis hierarchy, but my number one suggestion would be to allow a small number of ‘sick days’ per year where you are excused from your press commitments without having to disclose your personal reasons,” she wrote.

“You wouldn’t have to divulge your most personal symptoms to your employer; there would likely be HR measures protecting at least some level of privacy.”

She added: “Perhaps we should give athletes the right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on a rare occasion without being subject to strict sanctions.”

Osaka was fined over £10,000 for refusing to participate in mandatory media duties after her first round win at the French Open and warned by tennis officials that she risked suspension from future grand slams, including Wimbledon, if she continued her boycott.

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