French Open: Stars voice support for Osaka after Roland Garros withdrawal

By Sports Desk May 31, 2021

Naomi Osaka's shock withdrawal from the French Open generated an outpouring of support across the tennis world and beyond. 

The four-time grand slam winner pulled out of Roland Garros on Monday, a day after tournament organisers said her continued refusal to attend mandatory press conferences could result in her being thrown out of the event.

Osaka said in a statement posted to social media that she has had bouts of depression since winning the US Open in 2018 and never intended for her stance to become a distraction. 

Monday's action in Paris had mostly been completed when the news broke, but Serena Williams shared her thoughts following an evening match. 

Williams acknowledged feeling anxious dealing with the press at times early in her career, but said she believed the experience made her stronger. 

Top of mind, however, was concern for Osaka. 

"The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it's like," Williams said.

"We have different personalities, and people are different. Not everyone is the same. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently.

"You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way she thinks she can, and that's the only thing I can say. I think she's doing the best that she can."

Osaka's fellow players and others took to social media with encouraging messages for the 23-year-old. 

Venus Williams wrote on Instagram: "So proud of you. Take care of yourself and see you back winning soon!"

Young American star Coco Gauff responded to Osaka's tweet by writing "stay strong ... I admire your vulnerability." 

A pair of tennis legends also weighed in on Twitter. 

"I am so sad about Naomi Osaka. I truly hope she will be ok," Martina Navratilova wrote.

"As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental and emotional aspect gets short shrift.

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

Billie Jean King added: "It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression. Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs. We wish her well."

Mardy Fish, the former ATP player who reached number seven in the world, wrote to Osaka: "Mental health is nothing to criticise. Nothing to joke about. Pls [sic] take your mental health seriously. Without my support system, I truly believe I would not be here today. Here for you."

That public show of support extended beyond tennis, as prominent NFL and NBA players praised Osaka for her courage. 

"We are with you," said Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

NBA star Stephen Curry wrote: "You shouldn't ever have to make a decison like this - but so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be don't protect their own. Major respect."

Related items

  • Serena to retire: Gauff pays tribute to 'GOAT of all GOATs' Serena to retire: Gauff pays tribute to 'GOAT of all GOATs'

    Coco Gauff described Serena Williams as "the reason why I play tennis" as she paid tribute to the soon-to-retire great, declaring: "There will never be another Serena."

    Williams, a 23-time grand slam champion, announced in a piece in Vogue on Tuesday that she would soon retire.

    The 40-year-old did not provide a firm date for the end of her career, but hinted that she could bow out after the US Open, which begins at the end of August.

    Williams had won her first singles match in over a year on Monday at the Canadian Open, yet she wrote of the need to now prioritise her family.

    And Gauff, playing at the same event in Toronto, was not short of praise for a legend of the sport.

    "She's just been playing forever, my whole life," Gauff said after beating Madison Brengle.

    "The legacy that she's left throughout her tennis career is something that I don't think any other player can probably touch.

    "I think that the legacy that she'll continue to leave throughout her life is something that can inspire many more generations."

    Gauff, a highly talented 18-year-old, has no interest in any tag as the 'next Serena', although she can take inspiration from Williams in dealing with such pressure.

    "I've learned a lot from them [Serena and sister Venus]," Gauff said.

    "People always tell me that you're going to be 'next whatever', blah, blah, blah, and Serena has been considered the GOAT [greatest of all time] for at least the second half of her career, and she never succumbed to that pressure.

    "I think she overcame it, and I think that's something I take from her and try to learn from it. Not that I'm at her level and experiencing the same pressure she is, but in the moment I try to emulate that.

    "For me, I grew up watching her. That's the reason why I play tennis, and tennis being a predominantly white sport, it definitely helped a lot, because I saw somebody who looked like me dominating the game, and it made me believe I could dominate, too.

    "She's the GOAT. And undisputed, too, in my opinion. But I don't think that's an opinion, it's a fact.

    "Serena, for me, is the GOAT. The GOAT of all GOATs. There will never be another Serena."

  • Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu both fall in opening round of the Canadian Open Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu both fall in opening round of the Canadian Open

    Coco Gauff shined on the opening day of the Canadian Open on Tuesday, defeating American compatriot Madison Brengle 6-1 6-3 to move to a record of 14-4 from her past 18 matches.

    Gauff, who has not lost to anyone ranked lower than world number 22 Amanda Anisimova since the Australian Open, continued that impressive record by cruising past world number 62 Brengle, winning 58 per cent (34-of-59) of her return points in a dominant showing.

    Anisimova, who eliminated Gauff from Wimbledon, also made it through her first match unscathed as she defeated hometown Canadian Carol Zhao 6-1 6-3.

    China's Qinweng Zheng put another dagger into the Canadians with her 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 win over Rebecca Marino, but Bianca Andreescu gave the fans something to cheer for as she upset world number nine and winner of this past week's Silicon Valley Classic Daria Kasatkina 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

    Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo prevailed against American Claire Liu 7-6 (7-4) 2-6 7-6 (7-5) in a three-and-a-half-hour battle of attrition, while Australian qualifier Ajla Tomljanovic upset world number 16 Veronika Kudermetova 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7-4) in two-and-a-half hours.

    It was a disappointing showing from world number 10 Emma Raducanu as she went down 7-6 (7-0) 6-2 to the reigning champion of this event, Italy's Camila Giorgi.

    Naomi Osaka also will need an early flight home after being forced to retire against Estonia's Kaia Kanepi, pulling the plug due to a persistent back injury while trailing 7-6 (7-4) 3-0.

    In the late session, Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic successfully navigated the challenge of Tereza Martincova 6-4 6-2 to book a second round fixture against Serena Williams, and world number four Maria Sakkari survived a scare to finish strong and defeat Sloane Stephens 6-2 4-6 6-2.

  • Kyrgios, Norrie and Fritz advance through opening round of the Canadian Open Kyrgios, Norrie and Fritz advance through opening round of the Canadian Open

    Nick Kyrgios set up a mouth-watering second-round showdown against world number one Daniil Medvedev after defeating Argentina's Sebastian Baez 6-4 6-4 in his opening match of the Canadian Open on Tuesday.

    The in-form Kyrgios is coming off his first ATP singles title since 2019 after winning the Washington Open this past week, where he also won the doubles partnered with Jack Sock. 

    Against Baez, he served all six of the match's aces to make it through unscathed, and he will now play the top-ranked Russian – who Kyrgios has beaten twice – although he dropped their third meeting at the Australian Open this year.

    Dating back to the start of his Wimbledon run, where Kyrgios made his first grand slam final, the Australian has now won 13 of his past 14 matches, with the only loss coming in the Wimbledon final to Novak Djokovic.

    Earlier on, 11th seed Matteo Berrettini was the first upset of the day as he went down 6-3 6-2 against Spain's Pablo Carreno-Busta, while fellow Spaniard Pedro Martinez had less success, getting bounced by France's Gael Monfils 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-2.

    America's Tommy Paul delivered a gut-punch to his neighbours in the Great White North by eliminating Canada's own Vasek Pospisil 6-4 6-4, and his Canadian compatriot Alexis Galarneau also struggled in his 6-4 7-5 loss to Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov.

    Marin Cilic showed why he is the 13th seed with a strong 6-3 6-2 win in his all-Croatian battle against Borna Coric, and American Maxim Cressy had similar success against Russia's Aslan Karatsev 6-4 6-4.

    In a battle of the French it was Adrian Mannarino prevailing 6-3 6-3 against Arthur Rinderknech, and a pair of Englishmen made their way through unscathed as Daniel Evans won a back-and-forth contest against Filip Krajinovic 6-2 1-6 6-0, while Jack Draper returned to his rain-interrupted fixture against Hugo Gaston to finish the job 6-2 6-3.

    Alex de Minaur ensured it would be a grim day for the Canadian fans as he eliminated Denis Shapovalov 7-5 7-6 (7-4), before Holger Rune fought off the challenge of Fabio Fognini to emerge a 6-3 7-5 winner.

    In the late session, Roberto Bautista-Agut defeated Marcos Giron 7-6 (7-5) 6-3, ninth seed Cameron Norrie needed just over an hour for his straight sets 6-4 6-4 win over Brandon Nakashima, and Andy Murray had no answer for Taylor Fritz as he went down 6-1 6-3.

    Yoshihito Nishioka's strong form held up after his runner-up finish at the Washington Open, cruising past Benoit Paire 6-2 6-3, while 25-year-old Botic van de Zanschulp continued his rise up the rankings with a 6-1 7-5 victory over Miomir Kecmanovic.

    12th seed Diego Schwartzman needed three sets to navigate the challenge of Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 1-6 6-3 6-4, and Albert Ramos-Vinolas got the better of Belgium's David Goffin 7-6 (7-2) 6-2.

    In the final match of the night, world number 10 Hubert Hurkacz responded to adversity in the second set to pull out a 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 win against Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.