Serena Williams went to press following her 7-6(6), 6-2 victory over Irina-Camelia Begu in the French Open first round and was asked — multiple times, of course — about the Naomi Osaka situation.
Osaka, who was already boycotting the media at Roland-Garros, withdrew from the tournament on Monday afternoon. She cited the mental strain of the controversy as the reason for her decision. The 23-year-old from Japan also talked about how she has been struggling mentally since winning the U.S. Open in 2018.
Williams was first asked about how she thinks the tennis tours are handling the issue of mental health.
“I feel like there is a lot of, like, articles and stuff that they put out,” the 23-time Grand Slam champion responded. “I think you really have to step forward and make an effort, just as in anything. You have to be able to make an effort 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 whether it’s someone in your life. Maybe it’s someone that you just talk to on a weekly basis.
“I’ve been in that position, too. I’ve definitely had opportunities to talk to people, kind of get things off my chest that I can’t necessarily talk to anyone in my family or anyone that I know. For me it’s important to have awareness and make that step.”
“I KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE”
Williams went on to say that — like Osaka — she has held a press conference while feeling anxious more than a few times.
“Yeah, a lot,” she noted. “You know that. Many, many of ’em. I’ve been where I’ve been very difficult to walk in in those moments. But, you know, it made me stronger.”
Williams hopes that the current situation can help Osaka become stronger in the future — and in the present, as well.
“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. Like I said, I’ve been in those positions. We have different personalities, and people are different. 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, 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.”