Tennis star Naomi Osaka said she's withdrawing from the French Open after previously announcing she would be skipping press conferences — a move she called necessary for her mental health that resulted in a $15,000 fine.
Her decision sparked conversations about the responsibility of athletes to make themselves available to probing questions amid the tension of a major tournament. Retired tennis players Patrick McEnroe and Billie Jean King weighed in, and conservative media figures also reacted with outrage.
"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 said in a note posted to Twitter.
Osaka described the intense anxiety she feels while speaking to the media, even as she acknowledged that the tennis press has always treated her well.
"The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that," she wrote.
In a press conference after Osaka's announcement, French Tennis Federation President Gilles Moretton said her withdrawal was "unfortunate" and wished her a quick recovery.
He did not take questions from reporters.
Media interviews are mandatory for participants of the French Open, also called Roland-Garros. Organizers of the tournament said in a joint statement with international tennis bodies Sunday that Osaka was fined $15,000 for failing to honor her "contractual media obligations." Officials also said she could be kicked out of the tournament if she continued to skip press obligations.
"A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans, and for themselves," organizers said.
Osaka also said on Twitter that she believes those rules are outdated and that she had apologized to organizers privately and hoped to speak with them after the event.
"I'm gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans," she said.