Fans, fellow athletes and even brands are rallying to show support for tennis superstar Naomi Osaka after she announced on Monday that she’s withdrawing from the French Open in part to take care of her mental health.
The 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam winner issued a statement on social media explaining that she’s been suffering “long bouts of depression” since the U.S. Open in 2018 and has had “a really hard time coping with that.” In an effort to deal with her “social anxiety,” Osaka shared that she was hoping to “exercise self-care and skip the press conferences.” That move prompted the heads of the four Grand Slam tournaments (the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open) to fine her $15,000 for “choosing not to honor her contractual media obligations.”
Osaka said she had apologized to the French Open officials, but added that she would be taking “some time away from the court now,” and that “when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans.”
The Japan native also emphasized that withdrawing from the event would be “the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being.”
Nike, which has had a sponsorship deal with Osaka since 2019, issued a statement backing her decision.
“Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience,” the statement said, per CNN.
Another of Osaka’s sponsors, Mastercard, also issued a statement in support, according to the news network.
“Naomi Osaka’s decision reminds us all how important it is to prioritize personal health and well-being,” the company said. “We support her and admire her courage to address important issues, both on and off the court.”
Fellow tennis stars have come out to back Osaka, including Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King.
Williams said in a post-match news conference on Monday that she feels for Osaka: “Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can. That’s the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can.”
Outside of the tennis world, other athletes including Russell Wilson and Steph Curry shared notes of “major respect” and admiration for Osaka.
Support has continued to roll in from influential figures like Bernice King, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and many other fans: