Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the 2021 French Open after she was threatened with expulsion over her press boycott.
The world number two caused a storm on the eve of the tournament when revealing she would not attend any press conferences at Roland Garros on account of mental health concerns.
As a result, following her win over Patricia Tig in the first round on Sunday, Osaka was true to her word as she failed to attend the post-match press conference.
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In what is a huge shock, she has now announced that she has withdrawn from the tournament ahead of her second-round match.
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The Japanese star released the statement in the form of a social media post in which she explained the reasons for her withdrawal - and for her decision to avoid press conferences in the first place.
"Hey everyone, this isn't a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago," began Osaka in a statement on Twitter. "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.
"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 I announced it pre-emptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.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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Her failure to attend saw the four Grand Slams - Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open - release a joint statement reminding Osaka of her obligations and warning her that she faced being expelled from the tournament.
The statement read: "Naomi Osaka announced last Wednesday on social media that she would not participate in the mandatory media interviews at Roland-Garros 2021. Following this announcement, the Roland-Garros teams asked her to reconsider her position and tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue and what might be done to address it on site.
Following the lack of engagement by Naomi Osaka, the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open jointly wrote to her to check on her well-being and offer support, underline their commitment to all athletes’ well-being and suggest dialog on the issues. She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players.
"Naomi Osaka today chose not to honour her contractual media obligations. The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the Code of Conduct.
"The mental health of players competing in our tournaments and on the Tours is of the utmost importance to the Grand Slams. We individually and collectively have significant resources dedicated to player well-being. In order to continue to improve however, we need engagement from the players to understand their perspective and find ways to improve their experiences. Every year we seek to deliver better experiences to our fans, our players and our people, and we have a long and successful track record in achievement on this count.
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"A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves. These interactions allow both the players and the media to share their perspective and for the players to tell their story. The facilitation of media to a broad array of channels, both traditional and digital, is a major contributor to the development and growth of our sport and the fan base of individual players.
"We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences. As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament (Code of Conduct article III T.) and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions (Code of Conduct article IV A.3.).
"We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement. As a sport there is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honour their commitments.
"Finally, all Grand Slams remain committed to continually reviewing and discussing opportunities, together with the Tours and the players, to improve every aspect of the player experience, including with the media. But we consider this is only ever achieved through respectful and constructive discussions."
Osaka has now decided to withdraw from the tournament of her own accord.
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