Home Sports Roland-Garros: a year after his resounding departure, Osaka “still thinks about it”

Roland-Garros: a year after his resounding departure, Osaka “still thinks about it”

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A year after her resounding withdrawal from Roland-Garros, when she opened up about her depressive episodes, helping to bring out the question of the mental health of top athletes, Naomi Osaka is back in Paris. Not without a background of concern.

A year after her resounding withdrawal from Roland-Garros, when she opened up about her depressive episodes, helping to bring out the question of the mental health of top athletes, Naomi Osaka is back in Paris. Not without a background of concern.

“I didn’t like how I handled the situation”

“I’m not going to lie: when I first came back here I was very worried. Worried that there were people that I had, let’s say, bumped into and run into them. Also because I didn’t I didn’t like how I handled the situation”, admits the ex-world No.1 and four-time Grand Slam winner in her still slender voice and as if suspended, irremovable headphones on her head.

“But overall, everyone had a positive reaction, I think,” she perceives.

“I was also very worried about this press conference, because I knew I was going to have a lot of questions about it,” continues the 24-year-old Japanese, the highest paid sportswoman in the world.

The subject in question is the whirlwind aroused a year ago by his decision, greeted to general surprise a few days before the 2021 edition of Roland-Garros, not to give a press conference there to preserve his Mental Health.

“I think it’s okay”

“If the authorities think that they can just continue to tell us ‘Go to conf’ or you will be fined’, and to ignore the mental health of the athletes who are the centerpiece, then I prefer to laugh about it”, launches t she then on social networks.

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His radio silence makes a lot of noise. A few days later, the four Grand Slam tournaments, the most powerful in world tennis, together brandish the threat of sanctions going as far as suspension if Osaka persists, and the Japanese star prefers to slip away before his second round. Not without revealing having “gone through long periods of depression since the US Open 2018 (his first Grand Slam coronation, editor’s note)” and also suffering from anxiety problems on a daily basis.

A year after the Parisian episode, “I wouldn’t say it left my mind. Of course I still think about it”, admits Osaka.

“I’m also preparing, just in case, for the possibility that someone says something when I’m on the court, like in Indian Wells (where she was heckled by a spectator in March and ended up in tears, editor’s note ). But overall, I think it’s okay,” she said.

After her withdrawal from the Parisian Grand Slam last spring, Osaka took a break before reappearing in the maximum light of the spotlight at the end of July by setting the Olympic cauldron ablaze at the Games in Tokyo, in her native country, where she is an icon, even if she grew up and lives in the United States.

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Voice of Global Sport

“It was very interesting to see that in the (Olympic) village, people came to thank me. I think all the athletes are going through the same thing. It’s just that people don’t really talk about it,” says the woman who has become one of the voices of world sport, from the question of racial inequalities to that of mental health which is emerging in recent times.

Osaka, now followed by a psychologist, appreciates that tournaments like Roland-Garros or the US Open “set up” dedicated spaces.

And short side? After Roland-Garros, and until a final in Miami at the beginning of April, there followed a hollow and often skin-deep period for the former world No.1, who fell beyond 80th place in the world at the start of February.

On clay, where she is still uncomfortable, a painful Achilles tendon has only allowed her to play two matches this season, in Madrid, before facing American striker Amanda Anisimova (28th) at the first round in Paris.

But “there’s no way I’m not playing this tournament,” she said on Friday, even if it means “taking painkillers”.

Not seeded with its 38th place in the world, Osaka has at least avoided its worst nightmare: “I dreamed a few days ago that I had to face Iga (Swiatek, the world N.1 on a series of 28 consecutive victories) and I was scared… Luckily that didn’t happen.”

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