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Friday, September 17, 2021

Serena Williams on Naomi Osaka's French Open withdrawal: 'I wish I could give her a hug'

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Osaka withdrew from the tournament after being fined and threatened with expulsion for her boycott of media obligations at Roland Garros.

Williams, who claimed a straight-sets win over Irina-Camelia Begu at Roland Garros, was asked what she felt about the situation with Osaka, and her reply was full of sympathy and support for the Japanese starlet and four-time Grand Slam winner.

“The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi,” she said after her 7-6, 6-2 victory.

“I feel like I wish I could give her a hug, because I know what it’s like.

“Like I said, I’ve been in those positions.

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Naomi Osaka pulls out of French Open after being fined £12.9k

Serena Williams

Sympathy: Serena Williams offered words of support for Naomi Osaka after her French Open withdrawal (Image: GETTY)

“We have different personalities and people are different. Not everyone is the same.

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“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, in the best way she thinks she can, and that’s the only thing I can say.

“I think she’s doing the best she can.”

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Osaka had kicked off her French Open campaign in solid form with a 6-4, 7-6 win over Patricia Maria Tig.

But after she backed up her pre-tournament stance of not attending the post-match press conference, the Roland Garros tournament organisers slapped her with a £12,900 fine.

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The organisers even threatened the possibility of kicking her out of the tournament for her failure to comply with their media demands.

Instead of challenging the organisers again, Osaka instead took the decision out of their hands and announced her decision to withdraw.

“Hey everyone, this isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago,” Osaka said in a statement.

“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.

“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.

“More importantly I would never trivialise mental health or use the term lightly.

“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.

“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.

“Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.

“I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can.

“So 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.

“I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.

“I wrote privately to the tournament apologising and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the slams are intense.

“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.”

The French Open also deleted a post on its Twitter feed prior to the Japanese star’s withdrawal which praised players for attending media conferences.

Prior to Osaka’s withdrawal, the French Open used its social media to overtly praise players for attending media conferences.

The now-deleted tweet showed pictures of Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff engaging with the media along with the caption: “They understood the assignment.”

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Sport Feed

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