Former No. 1 ranked tennis star Naomi Osaka has revealed that an overwhelming number of celebrities reached out to her with support after she withdrew from the French Open in order to focus on her mental health. (h/t ESPN.)
In an essay appearing in the latest issue of Time, Osaka writes that former First Lady Michelle Obama, gold medalist Michael Phelps, Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry, tennis pro Novak Djokovic and Duchess Meghan Markle were among those who reached out to her.
“It has become apparent to me that literally everyone either suffers from issues related to their mental health or knows someone who does,” Osaka wrote in her essay.
The 23-year-old tennis pro made headlines ahead of the French Open back in May when she announced she wouldn’t speak to the media during the tournament because of the impact the large press conferences had on her mental state. Osaka was fined $15,000 for skipping the media obligations after her first-found win and was threatened with suspension if she continued to do so. Osaka then withdrew from the Open, citing anxiety and depression as culprits behind her decision.
“Believe it or not, I am naturally introverted and do not court the spotlight,” she wrote. “I always try to push myself to speak up for what I believe to be right, but that often comes at a cost of great anxiety.”
Since stepping away from the court, Osaka has used her time to find solutions that benefit the mental health of all professional tennis players.
“I have numerous suggestions to offer the tennis hierarchy,” she wrote. “But my No. 1 suggestion would be to allow a small number of ‘sick days’ per year where you are excused from your press commitments without having to disclose your personal reasons. I believe this would bring sport in line with the rest of society.”
Osaka hasn’t competed since she left the Open but is preparing to return and represent Team Japan in the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“I could not be more excited to play in Tokyo,” she wrote. “An Olympic Games itself is special, but to have the opportunity to play in front of the Japanese fans is a dream come true. I hope I can make them proud.”