Serena Williams had nothing but empathy for Naomi Osaka after the latter pulled out of the French Open due to the backlash over her decision to boycott media.
Osaka was fined $15,000 for not attending the post-match press conference after her first round win and was told she could face a default if she continued to skip media interactions.
The four-time major champion, on Monday, announced that she would be withdrawing from the claycourt Grand Slam and taking some time off tennis.
After Serena Williams completed a 7-6, 6-2 win over Irina-Camelia Begu on Monday, the American was asked if she had felt anxiety while facing the press after a tough loss.
“Yeah, a lot. You know that. Many, many of them. I’ve been where I’ve been very difficult to walk in those moments. But, you know, it made me stronger,” the 39-year-old said.
“The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her hug because I know what it’s like. Like I said, I’ve been in those positions.
“You just have to let her handle it in the way she wants to, in the best way she thinks she can, and that’s the only thing I can say. I think she’s doing the best that she can.”
Williams is chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, which has eluded her for more than three years.
The sports world rallied behind Osaka following her shock revelation that she had suffered from ‘long bouts of depression’ ever since her maiden Grand Slam win at the 2018 US Open.
Here are some of the reactions on Twitter:
Mental Health is nothing to criticize. Nothing to joke about. Pls take your mental health seriously. Without my support system, I truly believe I would not be here today. Here for you @naomiosaka https://t.co/8UdJexQPVj
— Mardy Fish (@MardyFish) May 31, 2021
It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression.
Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs.
We wish her well.
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) May 31, 2021
I am so sad about Naomi Osaka.I truly hope she will be ok. As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental & emotional aspect gets short shrift. This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi- we are all pulling for you!
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) May 31, 2021
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) May 31, 2021