Following her first round win at the French Open, Serena Williams told reporters she can relate to the anxiety Naomi Osaka feels during post-match press conferences and offered Osaka her support.
“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," Williams said.
Williams comments came hours after Osaka announced her withdrawal from the French Open after receiving backlash for deciding to not partake in post match press conferences to protect her mental health. Osaka also wrote she will, "take some time away from the court now."
Williams, the No 7 seed in Paris, said she has experienced the same type of anxiety as Osaka, and although she believes it made her stronger, she knows it's not the same for everyone.
‘I wish I could give her a hug, – Williams on Osaka’s withdrawal.
Serena Williams said on Monday that she believes Naomi Osaka is ‘doing the best she can,’ following the second seeds withdrawal from the French Open after deciding not to speak to the media during the tournament. pic.twitter.com/HJhFkgTV3k
“Not everyone is the same. 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. That’s the only thing I can say. I think she is doing the best she can," Williams said.
As for how she deals with those situations, the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion said, “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."
Serena Williams plays a backhand during her first-round match against Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu. (Photo: Susan Mullane, USA TODAY Sports)
Osaka has received support from numerous athletes like NBA player Stephen Curry and retired tennis stars Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King after revealing Monday afternoon she has dealt with depression since the 2018 U.S. Open, the same event when she beat Williams in the finals.
OPINION: Osaka's French Open withdrawal offers lessons for all involved
Osaka, who entered the tournament as the world's No. 2-ranked player, said last Wednesday she wouldn't subject herself to, "people that doubt me," as to why she wouldn't speak with the media.
She received criticism from multiple media outlets and those in the tennis world, including the official Twitter account of Roland Garros — where the tournament is being held. Osaka defeated Patricia Maria Țig in straight sets in the first round of the tournament before withdrawing. Following her victory, she was fined $15,000 by the French Open for not speaking with the media, with officials saying she was, "exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences."
Contributing: The Associated Press
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