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4-time Slam champion Naomi Osaka pulls out of French Open

Osaka wrote on Twitter that “the best thing for the tournament” would be if she pulled out and took a break from competition.
Credit: AP
Naomi Osaka of Japan reacts after losing a point against Jessica Pegula of the United States during their match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Osaka lost against Pegula 7-6, 6-2. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

PARIS, France — Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday and wrote on Twitter that she would be taking a break from competition, a dramatic turn of events for a four-time Grand Slam champion who said she has “suffered long bouts of depression.”

Osaka’s agent, Stuart Duguid, confirmed in an email to The Associated Press that the world’s No. 2-ranked tennis player was pulling out before her second-round match at the clay-court tournament in Paris.

A spokeswoman for the French Open said she was not aware that Osaka had formally withdrawn from the field.

Osaka had declared last week on Twitter that she would not “do any press during Roland Garros.”

She framed the matter as a mental health issue, saying that it can create self-doubt to have to answer questions after a loss.

After winning her opening match Sunday and skipping her news conference, Osaka was fined $15,000 — and threatened by all four Grand Slam tournaments with possible additional punishment, including disqualification or suspension.

RELATED: Naomi Osaka says she won't do news conferences at French Open, welcomes fines

“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” Osaka wrote Monday. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.”

She also spoke about dealing with depression since the 2018 U.S. Open, which she won by beating Serena Williams in a final filled with controversy.

“I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly,” Osaka wrote.

“Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety. ... I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media,” her post continued.

Osaka has never been past the third round at the French Open, a clay-court tournament. It takes seven victories to win a Grand Slam title, which she has done at hard-court tournaments: the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020; the Australian Open in 2019 and this February.

“Here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences,” she wrote.

Tennis players are required to attend news conferences if requested to do so. The maximum fine of $20,000, of course, is not a big deal to Osaka, the world’s highest-earning female athlete thanks to endorsement contracts totaling tens of millions of dollars.

Other players, notably 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal and No. 1-ranked Ash Barty, have said they respect Osaka’s right to take a stance but explained that they consider speaking to reporters part of the job.

After Osaka's post Monday, several athletes in tennis and other sports tweeted their support.

Martina Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam champion, wrote: “I am so sad about Naomi Osaka. I truly hope she will be ok. As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental & emotional aspect gets short shrift. This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi- we are all pulling for you!”

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AP Sports Writer Sam Petrequin in Paris contributed to this report.

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More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports