Naomi Osaka: why did star tennis player withdraw from the French Open - and has she been fined?

The player withdrew following a decision not to speak with the press during the tournament.

Osaka hoped her withdrawal would shift focus back towards the tennis.

Star tennis player Naomi Osaka announced on Monday (May 31) that she would be withdrawing from the French Open.

Her decision comes shortly after Osaka announced a decision not to talk to the press during the tournament due to its impact on her mental health.

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Why did Osaka withdraw from the tournament?

In a statement released on Monday, May 31, Osaka said she was leaving the tournament, also known as Roland-Garros, so that the focus could be turned back to tennis rather than the days of attention and discussion around her decision not to talk to the press. She said:

“This isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago,” Osaka wrote on social media. “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 and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly I would never trivialise mental health or use the term lightly.”

“The truth is I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that,” she added.

“Anyone that knows me knows I am introverted, and anyone that has 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 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.”

She signed off by saying

“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.”

Will she be fined?

Osaka has already been fined $15,000 by the French Open for deciding not to speak to the press, along with a warning that she could face expulsion from the tournament.

How has the organisation responded?

Roland-Garros responded to Osaka’s decision not to speak to the press on May 31, saying:

“The Roland-Garros teams asked [Osaka] 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.”

Two hours after Osaka’s announcement of withdrawal, a Roland-Garros press conference was held in which Gilles Moretton, FFT President, read out a statement calling Osaka’s withdrawal “unfortunate” and wishing her “the quickest possible recovery.” He left without taking press questions.