F1 icon Lewis Hamilton admits he struggled to cope with the pressure of being thrust into the spotlight when he made his F1 debut as he came to the defence of tennis star Naomi Osaka.
Osaka withdrew from the French Open after declining the tournament’s requirement to conduct press conferences, citing mental health reasons and revealing she had suffered from bouts of depression since 2018.
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It was reported on Friday (AEST) the 23-year-old has also pulled out of a grass-court tournament in Berlin starting on June 14, as fans wonder how long she’ll be out of the game for.
Whether she is prepared to come back in time for Wimbledon, which starts in late June, remains to be seen.
Osaka has flown home to California and was photographed for the first time since leaving Roland Garros doing some shopping at a Los Angeles supermarket.
Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from her first scheduled grass-court event in Berlin (week commencing June 14th). Still on the Wimbledon entry list but she is back home in LA for now.
Hamilton, who made his debut with McLaren at 22, says he too found his celebrity status tough to adjust to, and hit out at the “ridiculous” criticism that flowed Osaka’s way after she announced her media boycott.
“When you’re young you’re thrown into the limelight and the spotlight, it weighs heavily on you and probably most of us are not prepared,” he said. “I remember when I got into F1 the team had PR and I was never prepared for being in front of a camera.
“I was never guided as to what to look out for and helped to navigate through that.
“So you just learn through the mistakes and it’s incredibly nerve-racking especially when you have all good intentions but people take advantage of it.
“I’ve learned the hard way and made many mistakes and I still do today. It can be daunting, still, standing behind a camera.
“It’s not the easiest. Particularly if you’re an introvert and you do struggle to be under those sorts of pressures.
Osaka is taking some time off (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images).Source:Getty Images
“Some people are less comfortable than others. I’ve learned over my time here, and I’m trying to continue to learn how (to) engage.
“There are scenarios where, for example Naomi’s scenario, she didn’t feel comfortable for her own personal health not to do something and the backlash is ridiculous.
“People are not taking into account that she’s a human being and she’s saying that [she’s] not well enough to do this right now.
“I think that needs to be really looked into and how people react to that and rather be supportive and uplifting to her.”
Hamilton, who is preparing for this weekend’s Azerbaijan GP, does not think that fining Osaka was the right move from tennis chiefs.
“I applaud her for her bravery because it’s now asking those in power, putting them in question and making them have to think about how they react,” he said.
“The way they reacted was not good, with the fine. Someone talking about their personal mental health and then being fined for it, that wasn’t cool.
“They could have definitely handled it better. I hope they take a deep dive into it and find a better way to navigate in future.
“As athletes we are pushing ourselves to the limit, we are on the edge, and we’re only human beings.”
With The Sun
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