Serena Williams on Naomi Osaka withdrawing from the French Open

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Serena Williams feels for Naomi Osaka.

Hours after Osaka withdrew from the French Open to focus on her mental health, Williams said she can relate to Osaka’s struggles.

“The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like. Like I said, I’ve been in those positions,” Williams said after her first-round win over Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu.

“Not everyone is the same. We have different personalities. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can,” the 23-time Grand Slam winner said.

“That’s the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can.”

Williams and Osaka will forever be linked for the 2018 US Open final. Williams’ outburst at referee Carlos Ramos over a coaching violation stole the headlines from Osaka’s monumental victory. The Flushing Meadows crowd jeered during the ceremony after the match, leaving Osaka in tears as Williams consoled her.

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams at the 2018 US Open
Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams at the 2018 US Open
Corbis via Getty Images

In her statement withdrawing from the French Open, Osaka said she suffered “long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018,” and has struggled to cope with it ever since.

Williams went on to explain how she handled similar situations throughout her playing career.

“You really have to step forward and make an effort, just as in anything, and say, ‘I need help with A, B, C and D,’ and talk to someone. I think that’s so important to have a sounding board, whether it’s someone at the WTA, or someone in your life, or maybe it’s someone you talk to on a weekly basis,” Williams said, according to the Associated Press.

“I’ve been in that position too, and I’ve definitely had opportunities to talk to people and just get things off my chest that I can’t necessarily talk about to anyone in my family or anyone I know.”

Williams admitted that while many media sessions have been “very difficult,” they’ve also “made me stronger.”

Osaka, before backing out of the French Open, shared a statement opting out of post-match media conferences to protect and preserve her mental health.

After recording her first win at Roland Garros over 63rd-ranked Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday, the world’s No. 2-ranked player was hit with a $15,000 fine for not meeting with the press. Osaka had previously said she knew a fine was coming. Her withdrawal seemingly had more to do with her silence overshadowing the rest of the event.

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams at the 2021 Australian Open
Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams at the 2021 Australian Open
AFP via Getty Images

Osaka’s stance was scrutinized by the public and met with backlash from critics, including tennis star and world No. 5 Sofia Kenin, who said Osaka “signed up” for this.

The two-time US Open champion, before she withdrew from the French Open, was up against a possible expulsion from the tournament.

Now, Osaka’s taking time away from the tennis court.

It’s unclear how long Osaka will be away from the game, but in her return, she hopes to work with the WTA Tour to create positive change around players, press and fans.



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