Osaka, the second-ranked female tennis player in the world, announced on Monday that she was quitting the tournament after the organizers fined her $15,000 and threatened to disqualify her from the competition.
The 23-year-old athlete said the reason behind both her initial decision to avoid the press, which prompted the penalties, and to withdraw had to do with protecting her mental health.
“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. I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” Osaka wrote. “More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”
The fine was issued after her first-round victory against Romanian tennis player Patricia Maria Tig.
After Osaka’s victory, the tournament’s organizers released a statement noting that Wimbledon and the U.S. Open had “reminded” her of her “obligations.”
“A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves,” the statement read.
“We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences,” it continued. ”As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions, including default from the tournament and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions.”
Osaka said she would not be participating in news conferences on Wednesday, likening a post-match presser after a defeat to “kicking a person while they’re down.”
“I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health, and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one,” she said.