Boris Becker says he fears Naomi Osaka’s “career is in danger” after she announced she would be withdrawing from the French Open following the reaction to her decision to not attend press conferences due to mental health concerns.
Osaka first announced she would not be taking part in press conferences prior to the start of Roland Garros, prompting a strong response from the four Grand Slams, who said she could face expulsion from the French Open and future bans from other events if she did not engage with media.
The storm around the situation prompted Osaka to announce on Twitter on Monday evening that she would be withdrawing from the event and taking some time away from the court, revealing that she has suffered from “long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018.”
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She wrote in her statement:
"Hey everyone, this isn't a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago. I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris.
"I never wanted to be a distraction. 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.”
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Becker said in the Eurosport Cube:
“Sadly I’ve heard her first response a couple of days ago about this media boycott and she cited mental health issues, that’s something always to be taken seriously, especially from such a young woman.
“She couldn’t cope with the pressures of facing the media, especially after losing a match. Now Mats, you and me both know that happens frequently and you have to deal with it and I always believed that is part of the job.
“Without the media there isn’t any prize money, there isn’t any contracts. And you don’t get half the cake. I hated the media personally. I didn’t like to speak to journalists but I had to do it.
“She has cited that she is pulling out of the tournament altogether because she can’t cope with it. That raises much bigger questions for me because if she can’t cope with the media in Paris, she can’t cope with the media at Wimbledon, she can’t cope with the media at the US Open.
“I almost feel like her career is in danger because of mental health issues and that we should take very seriously.”
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Osaka added in her statement:
"Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world's media. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can.
"So here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences. I announced it pre-emptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.
"I wrote privately to the tournament apologising and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense. I'm gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans. Anyways hope you are all doing well and staying safe, love you guys. I'll see you when I see you."
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Watch all the action from the 2021 French Open live on Eurosport, eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport app with 13-time champion Rafael Nadal eyeing a remarkable 14th title at his favourite event and 2020 Roland Garros sensation Iga Swiatek aiming to replicate her stunning triumph in Paris.
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