Tennis-Navratilova sad for Osaka, says mental health gets short shrift

·2-min read
Wimbledon

PARIS (Reuters) - Women's tennis great Martina Navratilova on Monday said she was saddened by Naomi Osaka's decision to withdraw from the French Open following the controversy over her decision to boycott media obligations.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka announced her decision on Monday, a day after being fined $15,000 for not attending a post-match media conference and threatened with expulsion after her first-round win.

The Japanese player, who cited the negative impact on her mental wellbeing caused by facing journalists at post-match press conferences as the reason for her boycott, wrote on Twitter that she had suffered from depression since 2018.

"I am so sad about Naomi Osaka. I truly hope she will be okay," 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Navratilova said after Osaka's decision to withdraw.

"As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental and emotional aspect gets short shrift," Navratilova said.

"This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi -- we are all pulling for you!"

Osaka said she decided to withdraw from the Grand Slam tournament because she did not want to become a "distraction".

"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," the world No. 2 said on Twitter.

Osaka said she regretted the timing of her media boycott. Navratilova said it had made the situation worse.

"Kudos to Naomi Osaka for caring so much about the other players," Navratilova said. "While she tried to make a situation better for herself and others, she inadvertently made it worse.

"Hope this solution, pulling out, as brutal as it is, will allow her to start healing and take care of herself," Navratilova added.

Former American player Mardy Fish, who struggled with anxiety issues during his career, said Osaka should be fully supported. "Mental Health is nothing to criticize. Nothing to joke about. Please take your mental health seriously," he said.

"Without my support system, I truly believe I would not be here today. Here for you @naomiosaka".

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Bill Berkrot)