Michael Phelps says Naomi Osaka’s mental health revelation is a ‘game-changer’ in sport

Former world No 1 Osaka withdrew from the French Open this week and spoke openly about her struggles with mental health

Alex Pattle
Thursday 03 June 2021 11:59 BST
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Former world No 1 Naomi Osaka
Former world No 1 Naomi Osaka (Getty Images)

Michael Phelps has praised Naomi Osaka for speaking about her mental health struggles, days after the tennis player withdrew from the French Open amid backlash over her media boycott.

Former world No 1 Osaka said ahead of the clay-court Grand Slam that she would not be taking part in any press conferences at the Paris tournament, and the 23-year-old was fined and threatened with expulsion from the competition after her first-round win.

On Monday, Osaka pulled out of the French Open, sticking to her guns in a statement in which she said she has “suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018”.

Osaka, whose victory at the 2018 US Open marked the first of her four Grand Slam triumphs, has now been commended by former Olympic swimmer Phelps.

The American, the most successful Olympian in history with 28 medals, said in an interview with Time: “I felt very happy after reading her message, because she’s showing that vulnerability.

“She’s showing a side of her that we haven’t seen before, and that’s so powerful.

“It’s definitely going to be a game-changer in mental health moving forward,” added Phelps, who said he was “almost shocked” by the backlash Osaka received from some corners.

Phelps, 35, continued to praise Osaka, saying her openness when discussing her mental health “does bring a smile to my face.

“Because yes, then we are understanding that this is something that, it doesn’t matter if you’re No 1 in the world or the average Joe, anybody can go through this. It is real.”

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