Naomi Osaka Pulls Out Of Wimbledon Tuneup—‘Will Take A Break’

Topline

Naomi Osaka has decided to pull out of next week’s Berlin WTA 500 tournament, the event’s organizers announced Monday, as the tennis world awaits Osaka’s next move after she withdrew from the French Open following a dispute over her refusal to attend press conferences.

Key Facts

The organizers for Germany’s Berlin WTA 500, which is scheduled to begin on June 14, released a statement Monday declaring they “received notification” that Osaka “cannot start in Berlin.”

The statement concluded: “After consulting her management, she will take a break.”

Osaka has yet to publicly announce when she plans to return to action, or if she will play in Wimbledon, which starts on June 28. 

Key Background:

Prior to the start of the 2021 French open last month, Osaka, 23, acknowledged she was battling mental health challenges and declared on Twitter that she would not attend any press conferences during the tournament. She explained that she often felt “huge waves of anxiety” when speaking to assembled groups of reporters. After beating Romanian player Patricia Maria Tig in the first round, Osaka skipped her mandatory post-match presser. Osaka was fined $15,000, and the organizers of the four Grand Slams events responded by releasing a joint statement asserting “the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match” is a “core element” of participating in major tournaments. They also warned Osaka that skipping future media obligations would lead to additional fines and possibly a suspension from future Grand Slam events. Last Monday, Osaka, the No. 2 ranked player in the world, announced on Twitter that she was withdrawing from the French Open, stating she “never wanted to be a distraction,” adding that she had “suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018.” Osaka said she hoped to have meaningful conversations with Women’s Tennis Association officials before returning. “I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans,” she stated.

What To Watch For:

What about the Olympics? In addition to Wimbledon later this month, Osaka is also scheduled to compete in the Tokyo Summer Games, which are set to start shortly after in July. In October of 2019, a week before turning 22, Osaka (who was born in Japan, and whose mother is Japanese) gave up her U.S. citizenship in order to represent Japan in the Summer Olympics. 

Crucial Quote: 

“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 last week. 

Tangent:

Osaka has received an outpouring of support from celebrities across the globe. In an Instagram post last week, actor Will Smith wrote: “Hey Naomi, you are right. They are wrong! I am with you.” NBA superstar Stephen Curry tweeted that Osaka deserved “major respect” for “taking the high road when the powers that be don’t protect their own.” Hillary Clinton tweeted that she was “inspired” by Osaka’s courage, adding, “This is a moment for all of us—especially the press—to ask why it’s not enough to let her stellar performance on the court speak for itself.”

Further Reading:

More French Open Surprises: Federer Withdraws And Serena Loses In Straight Sets (Forbes) 

Naomi Osaka Withdraws From French Open After Media Boycott Fine (Forbes)



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