Naomi Osaka reveals Meghan Markle gave her support after she quit French Open and says sports stars need ‘sick days’ so they can skip press conferences without having to explain themselves as she appears on Time magazine cover

  • Osaka, 23, wrote an opinion piece for the magazine’s Olympic preview issue
  • She said she had received an outpouring of support including from Markle, Michelle Obama, Michael Phelps, Steph Curry and Novak Djokovic 
  • Osaka proposed allowing stars sick days ‘where you are excused from your press commitments without having to disclose your personal reasons’
  • ‘I believe this would bring sport in line with the rest of society,’ she wrote 
  • Osaka pulled out of the French Open back in May after she found herself at the center of a storm when she refused to attend a press conference
  • She has since revealed she struggles with depression and anxiety

Naomi Osaka has revealed that Meghan Markle reached out to offer her support when she quit the French Open amid the controversy over her press briefings. 

The tennis star, 23, said she had received an outpouring of support from people in the public eye including Markle, Michelle Obama and fellow athletes Michael Phelps, Steph Curry and Novak Djokovic. 

Osaka spoke out about the saga and the importance of protecting sports stars’ mental health in an opinion piece for Time magazine’s Olympic preview issue, on sale Friday, which she appeared on the cover of. 

In it, she called for sports stars to be allowed to take ‘sick days’ so they can skip press conferences without having to explain their reasons. 

Osaka found herself at the center of a storm back in May when she refused to attend a press conference at the French Open for mental health reasons.  

She pulled out of the tournament – also skipping Wimbledon – and has since revealed she struggles with depression and anxiety. 

Naomi Osaka has called for sports stars to be allowed to take ‘sick days’ so they can skip press conferences without having to explain their reasons, as she appeared on the cover of Time (above) magazine following her French Open controversy

Naomi Osaka has revealed that Meghan Markle reached out to give her support when she quit the French Open

Osaka called for the tennis world to allow its stars to take sick days if they feel the need to miss press briefings. 

‘I have numerous suggestions to offer the tennis hierarchy, but my No. 1 suggestion would be to allow a small number of ‘sick days’ per year where you are excused from your press commitments without having to disclose your personal reasons,’ she wrote in Time.

The four-time Grand Slam champion said she believes such a change ‘would bring sport in line with the rest of society.’ 

Osaka insisted she does ‘love the press’ but believes news conferences in the tennis world are ‘out of date and in great need of a refresh.’

‘This was never about the press, but rather the traditional format of the press conference,’ she explained about her skipping of the French Open press briefing,

‘I’ll say it again for those at the back: I love the press; I do not love all press conferences.’

She added that she has enjoyed strong relationships with members of the media throughout her career and has long given time to interviews.

‘I have always enjoyed an amazing relationship with the media and have given numerous in-depth, one-on-one interviews, she said, adding that: ‘The way I see it, the reliance and respect from athlete to press is reciprocal.’

Osaka playing her first round match of the French Open against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig on May 30. Osaka found herself at the center of a storm when she refused to attend a press conference after the match

However, the 23-year-old said ‘the press-conference format itself is out of date and in great need of a refresh’ and that ‘we can make it better, more interesting and more enjoyable for each side’.  

‘It has become apparent to me that literally everyone either suffers from issues related to their mental health or knows someone who does,’ Osaka wrote.

I do hope that people can relate and understand it´s OK to not be OK, and it´s OK to talk about it.’ 

Osaka said former first lady Michelle Obama and sports stars Novak Djokovic, Michael Phelps and Stephen Curry were among those who reached out to offer support after she withdrew from the French Open to take a mental health break.

Osaka – a four-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1-ranked player – wrote that she hopes ‘we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones,’ and suggested they be allowed to sometimes skip media obligations without punishment.

‘There can be moments for any of us where we are dealing with issues behind the scenes,’ the 23-year-old said. 

‘Each of us as humans is going through something on some level.’

Osaka walks into Margaret Court Arena for her second round singles match against China’s Zheng Saisai at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia

She said before the French Open began that she would not speak to the media during that tournament, saying those interactions were sometimes uncomfortable and would create doubts for her on the court. 

After her first-round victory in Paris, Osaka was fined $15,000 for skipping her mandatory news conference and threatened by the four Grand Slam tournaments with the possibility of disqualification or suspension if she continued to avoid the media.

Osaka then pulled out of that tournament, saying she deals with anxiety before news conferences and has experienced bouts of depression in recent years.

‘Believe it or not, I am naturally introverted and do not court the spotlight,’ she wrote for Time. ‘I always try to push myself to speak up for what I believe to be right, but that often comes at a cost of great anxiety.’

She hasn’t played since Paris, also sitting out Wimbledon, which ends Sunday.

She will return to competition at the Tokyo Olympics, which open July 23, and where she will represent her native Japan.

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