Serena Williams backs Naomi Osaka’s decision to withdraw from French Open

Osaka withdrew from Roland Garros after being threatened with expulsion for skipping a press conference

Tom Kershaw
Tuesday 01 June 2021 11:17
Serena Williams comments on French Open Naomi Osaka controversy

Serena Williams voiced her support for Naomi Osaka after the four-time grand slam champion withdrew from the French Open on Monday.

Osaka, who revealed on the eve of the tournament that she would not attend any press conferences due to mental health concerns, was fined £10,600 after skipping the mandatory media event following her first-round win over Patricia Tig and was subsequently threatened with expulsion from the tournament.

In a statement on Monday, Osaka revealed she has been suffering from bouts of 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.”

After defeating Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round, Williams said she sympathised with Osaka's concerns and backed her decision.

“The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi,” said Williams. “I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like. Like I said, I’ve been in those positions.

“We have different personalities and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently.

“You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way she thinks she can, and that’s the only thing I can say. I think she’s doing the best she can.”

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