Four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka says “there’s a lot of things” she “did wrong” during her 2021 French Open withdrawal.
Osaka was in the spotlight in May, when she withdrew from the tournament after refusing to speak to the media during the event, citing mental health reasons for her decision. She was fined $15,000 for not engaging in media duties at Roland Garros, hoping that any fine money she incurred would go toward a mental health charity.
“Honestly, I feel like there’s a lot of things that I did wrong in that moment, but I’m also the type of person that’s very in the moment,” Osaka told reporters in New York on Friday, ahead of the US Open.
“Like whatever I feel, I’ll say it or do it. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I think there’s a lot of things that I learned to do better. Of course, I don’t feel the same situation will happen again,” she said.
“I would say maybe think it through a bit more in the way that, like, I didn’t know how big of a deal it would become,” Osaka added.
Her decision to pull out of Roland Garros and take some time away from competitive tennis sparked debate about the relationship athletes have with the media, and whether or not press conferences function at the detriment of their mental health.
Osaka said the press conference format is “out of date” and “in great need of a refresh,” in an op-ed she penned for a July issue of TIME magazine.
“I love the press; I do not love all press conferences,” wrote Osaka. “However, in my opinion (and I want to say that this is just my opinion and not that of every tennis player on tour), the press conference format itself is … in great need of a refresh.”
“I believe that we can make it better […] Less subject vs. object; more peer-to-peer,” she added.
The world No. 3 also garnered attention earlier this month when she took a short pause during a pre-tournament press conference at the Western & Southern Open after she started crying. After being knocked out of the tournament by Jil Teichmann, Osaka reflected that making the choice to go out and play “itself is an accomplishment.”
Earlier this month, Osaka said she was feeling more thankful for her tennis career, after seeing the harrowing situations in Haiti and Afghanistan.
The two-time US Open champion will look to reclaim her title at this year at Flushing Meadows, which begins on Monday, August 30.