Serena Williams And Others Show Support To Naomi Osaka After She Withdraws From The French Open

June 1, 2021 / Posted by:

23-year-old tennis player Naomi Osaka is a tennis legend-in-the-making (I believe that beating the GOAT Serena Williams is pretty much your FastPass to the front of the line). She was previously scheduled to compete in the 2021 French Open, which began this week and will run until June 13th. There were no doubt plenty of French Open competitors that were nervously sweating into their tennis shoes last week at the thought of serving across from Naomi, who is a two-time Australian Open and two-time US Open champion. But they’re not anymore, because Naomi has pulled out after one match, in protest of the French Open’s rules regarding press conferences. Naturally, a whole lot of athletes have come to Naomi’s defense.

Naomi first made the French Open’s snobby shit list when she announced in an Instagram post on May 26th that she would not be doing any press throughout the tournament, for the sake of her mental health. Naomi says that she’s not a natural public speaker, that the press conferences cause her anxiety, and it’s just not a good time for her. via People:

“I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health, and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one. We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me. I’ve watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well. I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while their down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it.”

The French Open has a very strict press policy, in which they state that if a player refuses to do a press conference after a win or a loss, they will be fined. Naomi played her first match on Sunday, against Romanian tennis player Ana Bogdan, which Naomi won. And as promised, Naomi skipped the press conference, and as promised, the French Open served her up a $15,000 fine. Naomi then announced yesterday that she was pulling out of the tournament:

You’ll probably be shocked to learn that Naomi’s announcement wasn’t well-received across the board. It’s so wild how quickly the “Shut up and play!” crowd turns that entitled energy into “Play and don’t shut up – it’s your job to do press!” Since Naomi isn’t playing in the French Open anymore, she’s got a bit of extra time on her hands, and maybe she’ll use some of it to go through the messages of support she’s been receiving for her decision. Serena Williams, who has come to Naomi’s defense before (and also knows a thing or two about going to battle against the haters at the French Open), spoke about Naomi at a French Open press conference yesterday. via People:

“I feel for Naomi. 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.”

Williams, 39, added that many of the press conferences have been “very difficult,” but they have “made me stronger.”

17-year-old player Coco Gauff responded to Naomi’s announcement on Twitter, saying: “stay strong I admire your vulnerability..” Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Laurie Hernandez also tweeted support, saying: “Even though it shouldn’t have to be like this, I’m proud of you for putting your foot down. Your mental health matters and should always come first.” And the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry applauded her on advocating for herself, even if those around her were not:

WNBA star Lisa Leslie called out all the assholes who were coming for Naomi in person and online. Hmmm…I wonder who that tweet might be directed at?

Could it be multiple Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova? She also publicly jumped into Naomi’s corner, although many on Twitter pointed out that Martina’s support came after she originally called for Naomi to “woman up” during a Tennis Channel broadcast:

Naomi made the decision that was best for her mental health and emotional well-being, which begs the question: Why are people pissed off? She’s choosing not to do press conferences, not demanding the sport be re-named from Tennis to Little Green Ball Bounce. Post-match press conferences are boring. We already watched the game, why do we have to re-live every monotonous detail? If the French Open wants press conferences that badly, they should give players the option to sub in the most wine-drunk spectator in the stands. Who wouldn’t want to hear some buzzed random non-athlete go on a tangent, describing how their dog, Captain Pufflinks, would just love to get on the court and chase balls.


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