Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday and wrote on Twitter that she would be taking a break from competition, a dramatic turn of events for a four-time Grand Slam champion who also said she has “suffered long bouts of depression.”
Osaka’s agent, Stuart Duguid, confirmed in an email to The Associated Press that the world’s No. 2-ranked tennis player was pulling out before her second-round match at the clay-court tournament in Paris.
A spokeswoman for the tournament said the French Open was not aware that Osaka had formally withdrawn from the field.
Osaka had declared she would not speak to the media during Roland Garros and was fined $15,000 after she skipped the postmatch news conference following her first-round victory Sunday.
She framed the matter in her initial Tweet last week as a mental health issue, saying that it can create self-doubt to have to answer questions after a loss.
"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 wrote Monday. "I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer."
She also said that she has "suffered long bouts of depression" since the 2018 U.S. Open, which she won by beating Serena Williams in a final filled with controversy.
"I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly," Osaka wrote Monday.
"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. ... I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world's media," her post continued.
Osaka has never been past the third round at the French Open, a clay-court tournament. It takes seven victories to win a Grand Slam title, which she has done at hard-court tournaments: the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020; the Australian Open in 2019 and this February.
"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," she wrote.
In addition to Sunday's fine during Day 1 of the French Open, Osaka drew a surprising warning from all four Grand Slam tournaments that she could face stiffer penalties, including disqualification or even suspension, if she continues to avoid the media.
Osaka returned to Roland Garros after sitting out the tournament last year and won her first match 6-4, 7-6 (4) against 63rd-ranked Patricia Maria Tig at Court Philippe Chatrier.
After skipping the traditional session with reporters, then getting publicly reprimanded and fined, she turned to her preferred method of communication these days, tweeting: "anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable."
Tennis players are required to attend news conferences if requested to do so. The maximum fine of $20,000, of course, is not a big deal to Osaka, the world's highest-earning female athlete thanks to endorsement contracts totaling tens of millions of dollars.
Other players, notably 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal and No. 1-ranked Ash Barty, have said they respect Osaka's right to take a stance but explained that they consider speaking to reporters part of the job.
___ AP Sports Writer Sam Petrequin in Paris contributed to this report.