Naomi Osaka Asks for ‘Privacy and Empathy’ When Returning to the Court

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Tennis star Naomi Osaka has put the media she boycotted on notice, saying that she wants more “privacy and empathy” when she returns to the tennis court.

Citing bouts of depression triggered by anxiety when facing the media, Osaka told the sports world in May that she would no longer participate in press conferences at Roland Garros.

Osaka made that decision, she claims, in order to protect her mental health.

The reaction, however, was one of total understanding by the four grand slam tournament sites who responded by threatening to bar her from future tournaments if she refused to speak to the press. That reaction, apparently shocked Osaka who wrote in a recent Time Magazine essay that the extremely divided state of the world should have made her expect such a response.

“The world is as divided now as I can remember in my short 23 years,” Osaka wrote.

“Issues that are so obvious to me at face value, like wearing a mask in a pandemic or kneeling to show support for anti–racism, are ferociously contested. I mean, wow!

Osaka continued, “So, when I said I needed to miss French Open press conferences to take care of myself mentally, I should have been prepared for what unfolded.”

What anthem-kneeling and mask-wearing have to do with the situation is anyone’s guess. The reality is, in almost all cases, star athletes are required to speak to the media in order to face the public and promote the events. Osaka, however, sees this obligation as an anxiety-inducing event.

Osaka continued:

I felt under a great amount of pressure to disclose my symptoms – frankly because the press and the tournament did not believe me.

I also do not want to have to engage in a scrutiny of my personal medical history ever again.

So I ask the press for some level of privacy and empathy next time we meet I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s OK to not be OK; and it’s OK to talk about it.

Osaka is the second-ranked women’s tennis player in the world.



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