Grand Slam tennis leaders pledge to address Naomi Osaka’s concerns about players’ mental health

Naomi Osaka has made a name for herself with her play on the tennis court, but her rise to the top of the heap has been marred by a controversy that has prompted her to speak out about the mental health of female tennis players. On Oct. 11, 2018, Osaka won the U.S. Open final, beating veteran competitor Serena Williams 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Unfortunately, the moment was overshadowed by Williams’ reaction to the match.

Japan’s Naomi Osaka is one of the world’s most promising young tennis players. She’s shown potential to win a Grand Slam singles title, but has struggled with her own confidence. Look no further than the comment she made at a press conference last year, where she claimed some players struggle with mental health issues.

heads of four Grand Slam tennis tournaments responded Tuesday to Naomi Osaka’s surprising withdrawal from the French Open by promising to address players’ mental health issues. The promise was made in a statement signed by the same four administrators who had threatened Osaka Sunday with disqualification or suspension if she continued to miss press conferences. The four-time winner and world number 2 was fined $15,000 when she did not speak to reporters on Sunday after her first-round victory at Roland Garros Osaka withdrew completely from the tournament the next day, claiming on Social Media that she had suffered severe anxiety attacks before meeting the press and admitting that she had long suffered from depression. 1 Connected Osaka, a 23-year-old Japanese-born tennis player who moved to the U.S. with her family when she was 3, said she won’t be playing on the court now, but that when the time comes, I look forward to working with the tour to discuss how we can make things better for the players, the press and the fans. Tennis players are required to attend press conferences when requested; Grand Slam rules provide for fines of up to $20,000 for failure to attend press conferences. On behalf of the Grand Slam, we would like to offer Naomi Osaka our support and encouragement as she returns from the court. She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she is ready, officials from the French Open Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open said on Tuesday. Mental health is a very complex issue that deserves our utmost attention. It is both complex and individual, because what affects one person does not necessarily affect another. We thank Naomi for speaking in her own words about the pressures and fears she faces, and we sympathize with the unique challenges tennis players can face. French Tennis Federation President, Gilles Moretton, All England Club President, Ian Hewitt, US Tennis Association President, Mike McNulty, and Tennis Australia President, Jayna Hrdlicka, have pledged to work with players, tour operators and media to improve the experience of players at our tournaments, while ensuring that all athletes are treated fairly, regardless of their ranking or status. In a separate statement emailed to the AP on Tuesday, International Tennis Federation spokeswoman Heather Bowler said the sport would reconsider its decision after Osaka disclosed mental health issues. It is in our best interest to create a respectful and quality environment that allows all involved to perform at their best without jeopardizing their health and for the good of the sport, Bowler wrote. Several players, including Serena Williams, expressed their support for Osaka in a statement on social media Monday, praising her for her outspokenness. It’s hard. No one really knows what someone is going through, even if they want it to show on the outside. I didn’t know anything about her. But I respect her honesty, said Anne Lee, a 20-year-old American, after winning her first-round match at Roland Garros on Tuesday. Our generation is increasingly open and candid, which can sometimes be both a good and a bad thing. I hope she’s okay. Gael Monfils, 34, who also won in Paris on Tuesday, said he could understand Osaka’s concerns to some extent. It’s a very difficult situation for them. I feel for her, because it’s not easy for me either, the Frenchman Monfils said. It’s hard for me to judge what she’s doing, because I think she’s under a lot of pressure I think she’s pretty young. She’s doing very well. Sometimes we want too much from her, maybe… so sometimes she has to make mistakes And then Monfils made a point that many tennis players, from tournament and tour officials to athletes and fans of the sport, no doubt share. We need Naomi. We definitely need it 100 percent, Monfils said. We need her back on the field, back at the press conference – and she needs to come back happy. The Women’s Tennis Association told ESPN it could not comment on any specific player, but said it has been providing mental health services to WTA athletes for more than 20 years, including psychological support, in person at tournaments and telemedicine sessions between tournaments, if requested. The WTA indicated that it also provides resources and support in four key areas, namely: 1) mental health counseling, support and guidance; 2) mental performance skills; 3) touring skills and life strategy development; and 4) critical incident management/safety support.

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