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Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open after bitter media boycott row

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Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday following the bitter fall-out from her decision to boycott all media activity at the Grand Slam event, revealing she has “suffered long bouts of depression” and will “take some time away from the court”.

“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 number two wrote on Twitter.

The 23-year-old Japanese star was fined $15,000 on Sunday and threatened with disqualification after she refused to carry out a mandatory news conference following her first round win.

She claimed on the eve of Roland Garros that such post-match inquests were akin to “kicking people when they are down” and that they had a detrimental effect on her mental health.

“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” the four-time Grand Slam title winner said in her statement.

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

She added: “In Paris, I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences.

“I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite out-dated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.

“I am going to take some time away from the court now.”

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Osaka said she has also apologised to organisers over the affair which has dominated the early stages of the French Open ever since she warned last week that she would not carry out any media activity.

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova said she fully supported Osaka’s decision.

“I truly hope she will be ok. As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental & emotional aspect gets short shrift,” tweeted Navratilova.

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

French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton had described her vow of silence as “a phenomenal error”.

The four Grand Slam events — Wimbledon, the French, Australian and US Opens — said they had written to Osaka “to check on her well-being and offer support”.

“She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players.”

By AFP

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