Tennis-Last year's French Open withdrawal still on Osaka's mind


Tennis - WTA Masters 1000 - Madrid Open - Caja Magica, Madrid, Spain - May 1, 2022 Japan's Naomi Osaka in action during her second round match against Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo REUTERS/Susana Vera

(Reuters) - Naomi Osaka said she was worried she would bump into people at the French Open whom she "offended" last year when the four-time major winner withdrew from the tournament after boycotting post-match media duties for mental health reasons.

In the build-up to the 2021 French Open, Osaka said she would not attend the obligatory news conferences for players after matches as they impacted her mental well-being.

The Japanese, who at that time revealed she had been suffering from depression for almost three years, will begin her campaign at Roland Garros this time by facing American Amanda Anisimova in the first round.

"I was just kind of worried if there would be people that like -- of course I also didn't like how I handled the situation, but I was worried that there were people that I offended in some way and I would just kind of bump into them," Osaka told reporters on Friday.

"But I think like everyone has been really positive, for the most part. I'm not really so sure."

Osaka's decision to withdraw from the clay-court major last year sparked fresh debate around athletes' mental health.

The saga also cast a spotlight on tennis majors' pressure-cooker post-match media mandates, as Roland Garros organisers conceded they could "do better" on mental health.

"I was also very worried about this press conference because I knew I'd get a lot of questions about this," Osaka added.

"But, yeah, I think for me where I am right now, like I have -- I wouldn't want to say it's like it hasn't left my mind.

"Of course I'm still thinking about it, and I'm like kind of also prepping just in case... Yeah, for the most part, I think I'm OK."

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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