The world No 2 announced last week that she would not be attending press conferences at Roland Garros due to mental health struggles.
After the 23-year-old Japanese star was fined £10,800 and warned about potential expulsion from Grand Slam tournaments if she continued to boycott the press, Osaka shocked onlookers by pulling out of the tournament on Monday and revealing she has been struggling with bouts of depression and social anxiety since her triumph at the 2018 US Open.
Naomi Osaka has decided to withdraw from the French Open in the wake of her media boycott
Three-time Wimbledon winner Boris Becker now worries for Osaka’s future in the sport
Yet three-time Wimbledon winner Becker has genuine concerns for Osaka’s future in the game if she feels unable to talk to the media at tournaments.
‘I heard her first response a couple of days ago about this media boycott and that is something to be always taken seriously, especially from such a young woman,’ Becker told Eurosport.
‘She couldn’t cope with the pressures of facing the media after she loses a match, but that happens frequently and you have to deal with it.
‘I always believed the media was part of the job. Without the media, there is no prize money, no contracts, you don’t get half the cake. I hated the media and I didn’t like talking to journalists, but you had to do it.
‘Now she is pulling out of the tournament altogether because she can’t cope with it and that raises much bigger questions for me.
‘If she can’t cope with the media in Paris, she can’t cope with the media in Wimbledon or the US Open. So I almost feel like her career is in danger due to mental health issues.’
The world No 2 won her opening match at Roland Garros against Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday
Osaka did win her first round match against Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday and did then take part in an on-court interview – but struck true to her word and did not turn up for her post-match press conference.
Following a strong response from the four Grand Slams, and little in the way of solidarity from fellow players, she is now withdrawing from the second round.
In a statement on her social media 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. 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.
The start of the tournament has been overshadowed by Osaka’s boycott of press conferences
Osaka said she has suffered bouts of depression since winning the US Open in 2018
‘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.’
Ex-British No 1 Annabel Croft told LBC on Tuesday: ‘I remember her when she first burst on the scene, in fact I used to dread interviewing her because she was so shy.
“She could hardly string two words together, she couldn’t lift her head, and she’d give you an absolutely disastrous interview in terms of what you needed for press.
‘I think she is a bit of an introvert but having said that she’s gone on to win four Grand Slam titles, she’s amassed almost $20million in prize money and much more than that off court.
‘She has become one of the most engaging, most fun, most quirky, brilliant interviews in those press conferences and I felt she was really starting to come to terms with the press. I think everyone’s a bit surprised and taken aback by what we didn’t understand behind the scenes.’
With less than four weeks to go until the start of Wimbledon it must be considered doubtful whether Osaka would play there, or at the Olympics that follows in the country of her birth.