9th July, 2021
Naomi Osaka wants “some level of privacy and empathy” from the media when she returns to action and says she “could not be more excited” to play in the Olympics.
Osaka has not played since withdrawing from the French Open after revealing she would skip press conferences at Roland Garros as “people have no regard for athletes’ mental health.”
The four-time grand slam champion from Japan revealed she had suffered “long bouts of depression” since winning the US Open in 2018.
Osaka says she has not changed her stance on press conferences and feels she had been unfairly scrutinised.
The world number two wrote in Time magazine: “I communicated that I wanted to skip press conferences at Roland Garros to exercise self-care and preservation of my mental health. I stand by that.
“Athletes are humans. Tennis is our privileged profession, and of course there are commitments off the court that coincide.
“But I can’t imagine another profession where a consistent attendance record [I have missed one press conference in my seven years on tour] would be so harshly scrutinised.
“Perhaps we should give athletes the right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on a rare occasion without being subjected to strict sanctions.
“In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there, so long as it’s not habitual.
“You wouldn’t have to divulge your most personal symptoms to your employer; there would likely be HR (Human Resource) measures protecting at least some level of privacy.
“In my case, I felt under a great amount of pressure to disclose my symptoms —- frankly because the press and the tournament did not believe me.
“I do not wish that on anyone and hope that we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones.
“I also do not want to have to engage in a scrutiny of my personal medical history ever again. So, I ask the press for some level of privacy and empathy next time we meet.”
Osaka is now feeling the benefits of a break and is relishing representing her country in the Olympics on home soil in Tokyo.
“After taking the past few weeks to recharge and spend time with my loved ones, I have had the time to reflect, but also to look forward,” the 23-year-old said.
“I could not be more excited to play in Tokyo.
“An Olympic Games itself is special, but to have the opportunity to play in front of the Japanese fans is a dream come true. I hope I can make them proud.”