The Grand Slams have promised to work to improve the player experience at major tournaments following Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open.
A joint press statement from the majors on Sunday threatening Osaka with disqualification and a ban from future tournaments if she did not reverse her decision not to fulfil her media commitments fanned the flames of what had already become a major talking point.
After winning her first major title at the US Open in 2018 and the anxieties she experiences around talking to the media, Osaka opened up on the long bouts of depression she has suffered since being pressed into the global spotlight.
Another statement on Tuesday took on a completely different tone, with the majors offering the world No 2 their help.
“On behalf of the Grand Slams, we wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court, it read.
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“She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate.”
“Mental health is a very challenging issue, which deserves our utmost attention. It is both complex and personal, as what affects one individual does not necessarily affect another. The statement continued
“We commend Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressures and anxieties she is feeling and we empathise with the unique pressures tennis players may face.
“While players’ wellbeing has always been a priority to the Grand Slams, our intention, together with the WTA, the ATP and the ITF, is to advance mental health and wellbeing through further actions.”
The Grand Slams did again stress the need for fairness to be maintained through regulations.
“Together, as a community, we will continue to improve the player experience at our tournaments, including as it relates to media,” the press statement read.
“Change should come through the lens of maintaining a fair playing field, regardless of ranking or status. Sport requires rules and regulations to ensure that no player has an unfair advantage over another.
“We intend to work alongside the players, the tours, the media and the broader tennis community to create meaningful improvements. As Grand Slams, we aim to create the stage for the players to achieve the highest accolades in our sport.”
Tennis requires Osaka to return to the court, showing that not all players have the equipment to withstand the pressures of being a top athlete, Frenchman Gael Monfils said.
“We need Naomi. We need her definitely to be 100 per cent. We need her back on the court, back on the press conference, and back happy. You know, that’s what we need,” world No 15 Monfils said.
He continued “What she’s dealing with is tough for me to even judge, because I think she has massive pressure from many things,”
“I think she’s quite young. She’s handling it quite well. Sometimes we want maybe too much from her, and then how she says maybe she can’t manage it that well, so sometimes for sure she’s going to make some mistakes.
“But I give her always the chance because she’s a champion, she’s quite young, she has a huge influence. So I think she needs to take some time for herself to work on herself, feel better.”
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