Naomi Osaka on taking a mental health break: ‘I felt ashamed because you’re told to push through everything’

Naomi Osaka arrives on court

Naomi Osaka has opened up about the internal challenges she faced after opting to take a mental health break from tennis following her decision to withdraw from the 2021 French Open.

The four-time Grand Slam winner initially caused a stir when she decided not to do media duties at Roland Garros that year in order to focus on her mental well-being.

After skipping her first press conference following her opening-round win, it did not go down well with authorities as they threatened to not only suspend her from the tournament, but all four Grand Slams.

Osaka then pulled out of the clay-court major and opted to take a break from the sport and revealed that had been struggling with depression and anxiety for several years.

The former world No 1 admitted that she initially “felt ashamed” after going public.

“I felt like it was necessary, but I kind of felt ashamed in that moment because as an athlete you’re kind of told to be strong and push through everything, but I think I learned that it’s better to re-group and adjust the feelings you have in that moment and you can come back stronger,” she said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

“I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way [taking the break] because I learned a lot during that time.”

Osaka became one of the first international sports star to talk about mental health struggles publicly and she received support from fellow athletes.

“I think for me, I’ve just always been taught to kind of like stick it out or work through it, and I think that’s a very valuable lesson because it has gotten me through a lot of things in life,” she said.

“But there was just a point where I thought to myself like ‘why?’ you know. And not in a negative way, but if I am feeling this way, why would I keep pushing through it, when I can confront it and fix it and then continue on my journey?”

She added: “I was kind of huddled up in my house for a while after that whole thing happened [following Roland Garros in 2021].

“Then I went to the Olympics [in Tokyo] and there were so many athletes that came up to me and I was so surprised and I was so honoured because these are people that I watch on TV and I like, I felt really grateful and felt really supported.”

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