Judy Murray has sympathised with Naomi Osaka after the world No 2 withdrew from the French Open having been threatened with expulsion for not speaking to the media.
The 23-year-old from Japan said last week she didn’t want to take part in press conferences at Roland Garros to ‘protect her mental health’.
She received a £10,570 fine for not completing media duties following her first round victory over Patricia Maria Tig and then pulled out of the Slam on Monday.
Judy Murray has expressed her sympathy for Naomi Osaka after the world No 2 withdrew from the French Open and revealed her mental health struggles
Osaka had refused to fulfil her media duties at the Slam and was threatened with expulsion
In a statement, Osaka revealed she had been suffering from ’bouts of depression’ since winning the 2018 US Open, her first major title, and was planning to step back from the limelight.
And Murray, mother to Grand Slam winners Andy and Jamie, says she completely understands Osaka’s anxiety about facing the media, adding the media demands on tennis players are higher than in any other sport.
She added that Andy received media training at the age of 19 to learn how to handle with the press conference environment but this was beyond the financial means of most players.
‘Almost all of those [athletes] who had struggled with depression or anxiety said it was brought on by being thrown into then spotlight when they reached the top,’ Murray wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
‘They were totally afraid of it, even though it is part and parcel of being a top sportsperson.
Osaka released a statement earlier this week saying she would boycott the press at the French Open, citing mental health concerns as the reason behind her decision
Judy Murray revealed her son Andy was anxious about speaking to the press in his early career
‘Being afraid of the facing the press, being tripped up by a curveball question, being trolled on social media, the loss of privacy; these public-facing elements of the job are an underestimated source of stress.
‘How many young people do you know who would be comfortable addressing or being questioned by a roomful of very much older strangers?
‘It’s hard for any young athlete, but especially so for girls. They look up and see dozens of middle-aged men, people they can’t easily relate to and who lack experience of playing the game.
‘When you step into an interview room, there are so many potential pitfalls. If you’ve won, you’re excited and in danger of feeling so relaxed and happy that something slips and gets you into trouble.
‘It’s tougher, though, when you’ve lost. You’re much more likely to become upset or to bristle at a provocative question – and we all know that anger, fears, feuds and gossip make for good stories.’
Osaka said she had been struggling with her mental health since her 2018 US Open victory
She revealed that Andy would study how the likes of Roger Federer and Andy Roddick dealt with press conference to set the agenda and get their message across.
Osaka revealed her intention to withdraw from the French Open in an Instagram statement on Monday.
She said: ‘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.
Andy Murray had learnt from Roger Federer when it came to dealing with press conferences
‘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 apologise 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.
‘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 pre-emptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.
‘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.’
Osaka spoke about wearing headphones to try and shut out her anxiety at tournaments
In response, Grand Slams promised to offer more support to players to deal with the pressure of competing at the top events.
‘On behalf of the grand slams, we wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court,’ read a statement. ‘She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate.
‘Mental health is a very challenging issue, which deserves our utmost attention. It is both complex and personal, as what affects one individual does not necessarily affect another.
‘We commend Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressures and anxieties she is feeling and we empathise with the unique pressures tennis players may face.
‘While players’ well-being has always been a priority to the grand slams, our intention, together with the WTA, the ATP and the ITF, is to advance mental health and well-being through further actions.’