Naomi Osaka wrote on Twitter on Monday that “the best thing for the tournament” would be if she withdrew from the French Open, a dramatic turn of events for the four-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1-ranked player.
A spokeswoman for the tournament said the French Open was not aware of Osaka’s withdrawal. Osaka’s agent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
She had declared she would not speak to the media during Roland Garros and was fined $15,000 US after she skipped the postmatch news conference following her first-round victory Sunday.
She framed the matter in her initial Tweet last week as a mental health issue, saying that it can create self-doubt to have to answer questions after a loss.
“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 Monday. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.”
She also said that she has “suffered long bouts of depression” since the 2018 U.S. Open, which she won by beating Serena Williams in a final filled with controversy.
Osaka has never been past the third round at the French Open, a clay-court tournament. It takes seven victories to win a Grand Slam title, which she has done at hard-court tournaments: the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020; the Australian Open in 2019 and this February.
Osaka gets surprise warning
In addition to Sunday’s fine during Day 1 of the French Open, she drew a surprising warning from all four Grand Slam tournaments that she could face stiffer penalties, including disqualification or even suspension, if she continues to avoid the media.
Osaka returned to Roland Garros after sitting out the tournament last year and turned in a mistake-filled 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over 63rd-ranked Patricia Maria Tig at Court Philippe Chatrier on Day 1.
She had said last week on social media she would not speak to the media and kept that promise.
Hours later, Osaka turned to her preferred method of communication these days, tweeting: “anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable.”
Tennis players are required to attend news conferences if requested to do so. The maximum fine, of course, is not a big deal to Osaka, the world’s highest-earning female athlete thanks to endorsement contracts totalling tens of millions of dollars.
She framed the matter as a mental health issue, saying that it can create self-doubt to have to answer questions after a loss.
Other players, notably 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal and No. 1-ranked Ash Barty, have said they respect Osaka’s right to take a stance but explained that they consider speaking to reporters part of the job.