A year later, Osaka’s exit from the French Open sparked a mental health controversy

Naomi Osaka (JPN) reacts during her match against Patricia Maria Tigger (ROU) at Roland Garros Stadium.  Compulsory Credit: Susan Mulane - USA Today Sports

May 30, 2021; Paris, France; Naomi Osaka (JPN) reacts during her match against Patricia Maria Tigger (ROU) at Roland Garros Stadium. Susan Mulane – USA Today Sports

NEW YORK – Four-time major champion Naomi Osaka will focus on the psychological toll of professional tennis as the Roland Garros unfolds in the week following a new year of controversy over the mental health of athletes.

The former world number one shocked the tennis world when he withdrew from the Clay Court Major after boycotting post-match media duties, forming a row with tournament officials.

The Japanese athlete revealed that he had been suffering from depression for almost three years, with top athletes like Olympic gymnasts Simon Byles making a strong impression as they focused on their well-being.

The story also sheds light on the tennis majors’ pressure-cooker post-match media mandate, as Roland-Garros organizers acknowledge that they can “do better” in terms of mental health.

Osaka did not respond to a request for comment this week.

Tournament director Amelie Mauresmo told reporters in March that the organizers were preparing for the tournament “even weeks in advance” so that they were equal to the challenge.

“We’ve already seen that emotions really, really hard for some players to manage,” he said.

Mauresmo, a former world number one and two-time Grand Slam winner, said he was the first person to address players’ grievances and that he had contacted the Osaka camp.

“We are really prepared for what may or may not come to this side of the mental health part for this year,” he added.

Media obligation

Additional measures have been taken to reduce the burden of media obligation.

Organizers are planning to arrange a mixed zone for players who have not been specifically requested for a press conference and are said to have instructed moderators to intervene if questions are repeated.

Osaka’s position a year ago shook organizers and brands to better support their athletes, but progress has been steady.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced a mental health initiative ahead of the US Open in August but saw the announcement of a brief break from the tearful Osaka game when it admitted the win had brought it no more joy.

Last month, former world number one Chris Evert called for a discussion of the mental anguish of the game, after German Alexander Zaverev was repeatedly knocked out of a tournament in Acapulco for breaking his racket against the umpire’s chair, and Australian Nick Kyrgios for Indian Wells. .

Daria Abramovich, ASICS EMEA’s mental health advisor, and Iga Swiatek, the world’s number one high-performance sports and performance psychologist, say mental health plays the most important role in the lives of athletes.

“It’s always important that a player starts working on his own … As an individual, you know, taking care of a social support network, there’s a chance to actually gain something from the help of experts in mental health,” he told Reuters.

ASICS EMEA announced last week that it would fund mental health support as part of a new and existing athletes contract.

“Athletes of this generation, and I think women in particular, are so vocal about their role in mental health and overall well-being,” says Abramovich.

“It’s something that’s absolutely important.”

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