The Grand Slams have pledged to work to improve the player experience at major tournaments following Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open.
A strong joint statement from the majors on Sunday threatening Osaka with disqualification and a ban from future tournaments if she did not reverse her decision not to fulfil her media commitments fanned the flames of what had already become a major talking point.
Osaka opened up on the long bouts of depression she has suffered since being thrust into the global spotlight by winning her first major title at the US Open in 2018 and the anxieties she experiences around talking to the media.
Another statement on Tuesday took a very different tone, with the majors offering the world No 2 their help.
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On behalf of the Grand Slams, we wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court.
She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate
It read: “On behalf of the Grand Slams, we wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court.
“She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate.”
The statement continued: “Mental health is a very challenging issue, which deserves our utmost attention. It is both complex and personal, as what affects one individual does not necessarily affect another.
“We commend Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressures and anxieties she is feeling and we empathise with the unique pressures tennis players may face.
“While players’ wellbeing has always been a priority to the Grand Slams, our intention, together with the WTA, the ATP and the ITF, is to advance mental health and wellbeing through further actions.”
The Slams did, though, again stress the need for fairness to be maintained through regulations.
“Together, as a community, we will continue to improve the player experience at our tournaments, including as it relates to media,” the statement read.
“Change should come through the lens of maintaining a fair playing field, regardless of ranking or status. Sport requires rules and regulations to ensure that no player has an unfair advantage over another.
“We intend to work alongside the players, the tours, the media and the broader tennis community to create meaningful improvements. As Grand Slams, we aim to create the stage for the players to achieve the highest accolades in our sport.”
?"Even myself, I've been in the press room – it's tense"
Sir Mo Farah supports Naomi Osaka after her French Open withdrawal. pic.twitter.com/SzpVc5mj6S
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Tennis needs Osaka back on court
Frenchman Gael Monfils said tennis needed Osaka back on court revealing all players were not similarly equipped to deal with the pressure of being a top athlete.
“We need Naomi. We need her definitely to be 100 per cent. We need her back on the court, back on the press conference, and back happy. You know, that’s what we need,” world No 15 Monfils said.
“What she’s dealing with is tough for me to even judge, because I think she has massive pressure from many things,” he continued.
“I think she’s quite young. She’s handling it quite well. Sometimes we want maybe too much from her, and then how she says maybe she can’t manage it that well, so sometimes for sure she’s going to make some mistakes.
“But I give her always the chance because she’s a champion, she’s quite young, she has a huge influence. So I think she needs to take some time for herself to work on herself, feel better.”
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