Serena Williams Speaks Out in Support of Naomi Osaka After She Withdraws from French Open

Serena Williams is standing behind Naomi Osaka’s decision to withdraw from the French Open.

Last week, the 23-year-old tennis champion, Osaka, decided not to participate in standard post-match news conferences and therefore was fined $15,000 for not abiding by the media requirements. As a result, Osaka released a statement Monday revealing that she would not be participating in the Open for mental health reasons.

“Hey everyone, this isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago. I think now 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,” Osaka wrote in a message on social media. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly.”

She continued, “The truth is I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows I am introverted, and anyone that has seen me at tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety. Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.”

The same day, Williams showed her support for Osaka during a post-match conference. “I feel for Naomi,” she said per the Associated Press. “Not everyone is the same. I'm thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can. That's the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can.”

“You really have to step forward and make an effort, just as in anything, and say, ‘I need help with A, B, C and D,’ and talk to someone. I think that’s so important to have a sounding board, whether it’s someone at the WTA, or someone in your life, or maybe it’s someone you talk to on a weekly basis,” she continued. “I’ve been in that position too, and I’ve definitely had opportunities to talk to people and just get things off my chest that I can’t necessarily talk about to anyone in my family or anyone I know.”

We love the support these two show for one another.

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