Does Tennis Truly Care About Mental Health? | Sports Takes & News | TooAthletic.com
The four-day battle between Naomi Osaka and the French Open ended on Monday when the four-time Grand Slam championship withdrew from the tournament. Her decision came after being mocked by those at Roland-Garros for being unwilling to attend press conferences, choosing instead to protect her mental health from further bounds of social anxiety. In their response, the organizers of the French Open in just a few words explained how tennis and many across sports in general view the mental health of athletes … with the revelation reminding us how those who can’t compete think so little about those who do.
The words were subtle, like a drop shot floating over the net, but what they revealed was all you need to know about how athletes are thought of in some sports and by some within them. When responding to the news that Naomi Osaka was withdrawing from the French Open to avoid being a distraction, organizers said there were “sorry and sad” about her decision and wished her the “best and the quickest possible recovery,” and hoped Osaka would compete in the 2022 Open.
RECOVERY? Naomi Osaka said in her statement on withdrawing from the French Open that she had been dealing with “long bouts of depression” since winning the US Open in the early fall of 2018, nearly three years ago. On Monday, the French Open was hoping for her “best and quickest possible recovery” as if she was having surgery or needed to rest a physical injury.
Therein lies the problem with sports and mental illness: Many feel like the mind heals like the body does.
The 2018 US Open was the first of Naomi Osaka’s four Grand Slam titles, having won at least one per year since winning. After winning in New York City three years ago, the crowd booed the Japanese/Haitian tennis star because she defeated Serena Williams, who was, and still is, attempting to break the all-time record for the most Grand Slam single’s titles.
With caring, but revealing words, the French Open hopes that after dealing with depression for nearly three years, that somehow taking this year off, Naomi Osaka will be all better. They believe she will be able to come back to Paris next year fully recovered from her mental health crisis and show up to press conferences, something they mocked her on social media for not doing over the weekend.
Naomi Osaka is not able to have surgery to have her social anxiety or depression removed, nor will be there be a 6-9 month recovery period after such a surgery. To be so high-browed to believe with a little time anyone can “fully recover” from mental health issue shows you how sports still views the condition.
When people still think of athletes as invincible and indestructible, nothing, is supposed to break them. And while for many years of their career their body complies with that belief, the mind, the most important and most fragile organ humans have, doesn’t always have the same ability to be resilient when injured. That’s where Naomi Osaka is … but instead of getting unquestioned or unconditional support, the French Open drove her away with fines as all four major tennis tournaments openly talked about suspending her for not talking to the media.
I can remember a time when substance abuse and addiction were once thought as a character flaw by some in sports. Now, it appears that mental health has taken its place in the sports world, with those who need to “talk to someone” are looked upon as weaker than others.
Perhaps if those who run the French Open, other tennis events, and other sports in general took the time to research what it must be like to panic at the thought of sitting in front of the media, they would not have such a low viewpoint of what Naomi Osaka is dealing with and would be better able to help her rather than belittle her condition. Then again, that only comes from people who care about the athlete as a person and not just an asset to be used and discarded; which also tells us how poorly athletes are thought about within their own sports and by those who watch it as so-called fans.
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Does Tennis Truly Care About Mental Health? | TooAthletic.com
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