Boris Becker believes Naomi Osaka’s mental health struggles could put her career in jeopardy.
Osaka announced her withdrawal from the French Open on Monday evening, having caused a huge stir with her decision ahead of the tournament not to fulfil her media obligations.
The world number two opened up on the long bouts of depression she has suffered since being thrust into the global spotlight by winning her first grand slam title at the US Open in 2018 and the anxieties she experiences around talking to the media.
Speaking on Eurosport, former world number one Becker said: “Without the media there isn’t any prize money, there isn’t any contracts. And you don’t get half the cake. I hated the media, personally. I didn’t like to speak to journalists, but I had to do it.
“She has cited that she is pulling out of the tournament altogether because she can’t cope with it. That raises much bigger questions for me because, if she can’t cope with the media in Paris, she can’t cope with the media at Wimbledon, she can’t cope with the media at the US Open.
“I almost feel like her career is in danger because of mental health issues and that we should take very seriously.”
Osaka’s media boycott blew up into a huge controversy and led to the grand slams fining her and jointly threatening her with disqualification from the tournament and a potential ban from future events.
Martina Navratilova said on Tennis Channel: “Clearly this is about more than doing a press conference after the match or not doing a press conference after the match.
“Once she said the word depression, which is only up to her to tell the world about, then everything changes. Now it’s about her taking care of herself and hopefully find a solution.
“It’s such a difficult situation. We’ve never had this happen before. Maybe some people over-reacted with what the fines were and all this stuff but the rules are there for a reason because people would find an excuse. Hers is not an excuse, this is a real reason.”
Regarding what she hopes will happen now, Navratilova added: “Only support her and appreciate the strength it took to say that, because now the whole world knows about it. People say, ‘Oh it’s easy for you, you’re famous and rich’. No. The whole world knows your struggles and that does not make it easier.”
Four-time Olympic gold-medallist Sir Mo Farah also expressed his support for Osaka on Tuesday.
The long-distance runner told Jeremy Vine’s show on Channel 5: “It is our duty to talk to journalists and talk to the camera because that’s what we have to do as athletes, but sometimes it’s difficult.
“If someone’s not in the right mind-state or going through mental health (issues) and in a difficult position, it’s so much more difficult.
“I think at this point we can only support her and encourage her.”