Japanese tennis ace Naomi Osaka made headlines this week when she elected to forgo media interviews during the French Open to prioritize her mental health.
As a result, tennis officials threatened to suspend the 23-year-old and issued a fine of $15,000 for her decision to skip news conferences.
Less than 24 hours later, Osaka issued a statement on Twitter sharing she would be withdrawing from the French Open and that she will take “some time away” from the tennis court.
"I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly," Osaka said via her post. "The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that."
"Anyone that knows me I'm introverted," she added, "and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I'm often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety."
In the wake of Osaka’s statement to withdraw from the French Open, Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said he supported and respected Osaka’s decision.
“I think it’s a shame that there are people out there that don’t respect and support it,” Lillard told NBCSNW on Monday. “I think in this era, this age of being a professional athlete, we deal with things that a lot of people who came before us didn’t have to deal with as far as the access that fans and people who aren’t even fans that just know who you are have to you. Whether it’s Twitter or Instagram or whatever, Facebook, because of social media, people are allowed to comment and have opinions and down talk and disrespect on a level that they weren’t allowed to before.”
Lillard went on to detail the heavy pressure placed on professional athletes to perform at the highest level, and how psychological factors and mental health issues can impact players in a variety of ways.
“She’s the one that has to go out there and perform, and answer to critics and rise to the occasion, and train and prepare herself to go out there and do that,” Lillard said.
Lillard wasn’t alone in praising Osaka for putting her mental health first. Players around the sports world vocalized their support for the four-time Slam champion.