Why Naomi Osaka’s Decision To Withdraw From Grand Slams Is Setting A Very Important Precedent For Mental Health.

TL;DR (2-minute read)

  • Naomi Osaka withdrew from two grand slams, French and Wimbledon open, due to personal problems such as anxiety and depression according to her agent.
  • She plans to return for the Tokyo Olympics which starts July 23.
  • Many critique her for acting as a diva and that the decision was unnecessary. A prominent example is the lead sports writer for the Telegraph Oliver Brown claiming Osaka has “diva” behavior.
  • However, several influential members of the sport’s community support her and her push for mental health aid such as NBA star Kyrie Irving and fellow tennis star Venus Williams. 

What happened to Naomi Osaka?

22-year-old tennis star Naomi Osaka has just announced her withdrawal from Wimbledon. This follows a similar previous decision from her to withdraw from the French open. To help justify her decisions to her countless fans, she revealed she had “suffered long bouts of depression” for quite some time now. This decision was commended by many athletes across the sports world. NBA star Kyrie Irving took to social media to voice his support by posting “We are all with you Queen. Just Be You, that will always be enough.” Fellow women’s tennis star Venus Williams also wrote, “Take care of yourself and see you back winning soon!”

What is she doing instead of Wimbledon?

Her withdrawal from the French Open was widely understood due to her refusing to participate in post-match press conferences due to her anxiety and depression. But many were expecting a quick return. So when she withdrew from Wimbledon, which begins on June 28th, her fans were curious to see what she would be doing instead. Osaka’s agent cleared up this curiosity by indicating that she will be spending “some personal time with friends and family.” This is in an effort to help “to prolong her career.” Her agent went on to release that “she will be ready for the Olympics and is excited to play in front of her home fans.”

Why is this decision leading a new way?

In modern-day media and society, sports have become a way to advocate for human rights. 

But mental health has received less attention. Christine Brennan, a USA Today sports columnist, perfectly put this situation “a crucial moment in culture and in sport history”. Data shows that almost 44.6 million athletes across the world suffer from some major depressive disorder. This was an increase of almost 1.5 million people from the previous year. With no end in sight for this, athletes like Naomi Osaka are advocating for mental health, specifically, the idea that mental health should be put first. There were many critiques of these decisions, whom I completely disagree with, like Oliver Brown, a lead sports writer of the Telegraph, who called these actions “Diva behavior”. This demonstrates how ignorant our media can be, which is more of a reason to support Naomi and her decisions. 

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