Naomi Osaka Reveals Meghan Markle Reached Out To Her Following Her Mental Health Break From Tennis
Jul 09, 2021 by apost team
Naomi Osaka, the Four-time Grand Slam tennis star, shocked the sports world in May when she withdrew from the French Open. Osaka, the highest-paid female athlete globally, quit the competition after a dispute with tournament officials over press conference appearances. When the high-profile tennis player skipped a post-match news conference because of their impact on her mental health, the French Open’s tournament referee fined Osaka $15,000.
Although tennis officials have been reluctant to support Osaka’s decision to prioritize her mental health, prominent public figures, like Meghan Markle, have supported the athlete. Osaka thanked Markle for her support in a July 8 essay the athlete penned for Time. Markle and her husband, Prince Harry, have also raised awareness surrounding mental health. And in a controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, Markle disclosed that she herself has dealt with serious bouts of depression in the past.
Harry also spoke openly about his wife’s depression in a recent Apple TV+ documentary series, “The Me You Can’t See,” which he produced with Winfrey.
The show also features Winfrey and Harry opening up about their own experiences with mental illness. Focusing on making sure viewers know they are not alone in the struggles with mental illness, the show's goal is to challenge stigmas and provide insight into how viewers can start the path to treatment.
Beyond thanking prominent figures from Markle to Michael Phelps, Osaka used her essay to both address her relationship with the press and the importance of athlete mental health — a topic that doesn’t get much coverage in the media.
The 23-year-old athlete will represent Japan at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
"I want to thank everyone who supported me. There are too many to name, but I want to start with my family and friends, who have been amazing," Osaka wrote in the Time essay. "There is nothing more important than those relationships. I also want to thank those in the public eye who have supported, encouraged and offered such kind words. Michelle Obama, Michael Phelps, Steph Curry, Novak Djokovic, Meghan Markle, to name a few."
Osaka initially opened up about her struggles with depression and anxiety following her May 31 withdrawal from the French Open.
“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 in the May 31 Instagram post, announcing her departure from the French Open.
“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety,” she continued.
Markle, whom Osaka names in the July 8 essay, has also publicly spoken about her struggles with mental health. In a controversial March 7 interview with Winfrey, Markle said that the way the royal family and media treated her led to a “frightening” psychological state.
In her piece, however, Osaka emphasizes that it wasn’t the press itself that caused her mental health issues; she says she has an “amazing relationship with the media.”
Rather, she finds it anxiety-inducing and stressful to speak to the international press right after a match, especially when athletes don’t have the choice to opt out of news conferences.
In a since-deleted post on Reddit, Osaka’s sister, a former professional tennis player herself, wrote that Naomi Osaka’s anxiety was rooted in the fact that the press constantly asks negative questions about her performance on clay courts.
Osaka expanded on her problem with post-match press conferences in her Time essay, calling the format “out of date and in great need of a refresh.” The tennis pro also laid out some concrete ideas for reform.
“I have numerous suggestions to offer the tennis hierarchy, but my No. 1 suggestion would be to allow a small number of ‘sick days’ per year where you are excused from your press commitments without having to disclose your personal reason,” Osaka proposed.
“I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it. There are people who can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel,” Osaka wrote at the end of her piece. “Michael Phelps told me that by speaking up I may have saved a life. If that’s true, then it was all worth it.”
Osaka, who relinquished her American citizenship in 2019, will play for Japan during the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which start on July 23.
Naomi Osaka (2021), (Handout/Laureus/Getty Images)
“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,” Osaka wrote. “I hope I can make them proud.”
Are you surprised that Meghan Markle reached out to Naomi Osaka? Do you agree with Osaka’s essay? Let us know — and send this on to get your friends and family members' opinions.