Naomi Osaka: why has the tennis player pulled out of the French Open - and what did Piers Morgan say about her

Naomi Osaka won her first Gram Slam title in 2018 after defeating 23 time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams

Four time Grand Slam singles champion Naomi Osaka has announced that she will be withdrawing from the ongoing French Open tennis tournament.

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Who is Naomi Osaka?

Naomi Osaka serves in her First Round match against Patricia Maria Tig of Romania during Day One of the 2021 French Open at Roland Garros (Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Naomi Osaka is a Japanese professional tennis player, and has been ranked number one by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). She is the first Asian player to hold the top ranking in singles.

Osaka is a four time Grand Slam singles champion, and is the reigning champion at the US Open and the Australian Open.

Born in Japan, Osaka has lived and trained in the US since she was three years old, and rose to prominence in the tennis world at 16 when she defeated former US Open champion Samantha Stosur in her WTA Tour debut.

In 2018, Osaka would go on to win against 23 time Grand Slam tennis champion Serena Williams in the final of the US Open. Since 2018, Osaka has won a Grand Slam singles title for four years in a row.

In 2020, Osaka became the highest paid female athlete of all time, and she has worked with brands such as Nike, Adidas, Yonex, Nissan and Louis Vitton.

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What did Osaka say about press conferences?

On Wednesday 26 May, Osaka announced that she would not be doing any press during The French Open tournament, also known as Roland Garros.

In a Twitter post, the tennis player wrote: “I’m writing this to say I’m not going to do any press during Roland Garros.

“I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes' mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.”

She goes on to explain that she’s seen many athletes “breaking down after a loss in the press room” and she believes that the whole situation “is kicking a person while they’re down”.

Osaka ended the post by writing: “Anyways, I hope the considerable amount that I get fined for this will go towards a mental health charity.”

According to Grand Slam rules, tennis players are required to attend post-match press conferences within 30 minutes of their match ending, or else they could be subject to fines of up to $20,000, unless they are injured or are physically unable to appear.

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Why has Osaka pulled out of the tournament?

Following her announcement that she would not be participating in press conferences, it was announced by the Grand Slams that she would be issued a $15,000 (circa £10,000) fine.

In its statement, the Grand Slams said that “the mental health of players competing in our tournaments and on the Tours is of the utmost importance to the Grand Slams”.

Earlier today (1 June), Osaka announced that she would be withdrawing from the tournament.

In her statement, Osaka said: “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 and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.”

The tennis player opened up about her struggles with mental health in her announcement, saying that she would “never trivialise mental health or use the term lightly”.

She went on to explain that she has suffered “long bouts of depression” since the US Open in 2018, and that anyone who has seen her at tournaments will have noticed that she is often wearing headphones as they “help dull [her] social anxiety”.

Osaka continued: “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 explained that she thought it would be “better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences”, and that she made the announcement preemptively as she does feel “like the rules are quite outdated in parts”.

Osaka ended her announcement by saying that she would be taking some time away from the tennis court, and when the time is right, she is keen to work with the Grand Slams “to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans”.

What did Piers Morgan say?

Prior to the news that Osaka would be pulling out of the tennis tournament, former Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan wrote an article heavily criticising Osaka for her decision not to speak to the press.

In his article, titled “Narcissistic Naomi’s cynical exploitation of mental health to silence the media is right out the Meghan and Harry playbook of wanting their press cake and eating it”, Morgan brands Osaka an “arrogant spoiled brat” for choosing to no longer participate in media press conferences.

Novak Djokovic did not receive the same treatment from Morgan when he refused to speak to the media following his disqualification from the US Open last year.

In the article, Morgan declares that Osaka’s decision has “got nothing to do with mental health” and instead claims that the move is a ploy for Osaka avoid criticisms after a game.

While lambasting Osaka for “trivialising mental health”, Morgan ends his column by appearing to trivialise mental health himself, writing: “And to anyone who dares criticie [sic] me for saying this, STOP - you’re damaging my mental health.”

In response to Morgan's column, one person wrote on Twitter: “All Piers Morgan does is bully mixed race women with his huge platform.”

Another Tweeted: “What Piers Morgan fails to understand is that he has LITERALLY no power whatsoever over anyone who doesn’t give a f**k about Piers Morgan.”

“If time machines existed, Piers Morgan would go backwards in time to chat s**t about Rosa Parks,” wrote another.

One asked: “I wonder what it is about Naomi Osaka and Meghan Markle that so upsets Piers Morgan? Strangely, he didn’t say a word when Djokovic refused to speak to the media at the US Open.”