French Open 2021: Swimming legend Michael Phelps has shown support for tennis star Osaka Naomi after she withdrew from the ongoing French Open citing her mental health.
Phelps, a mental health campaigner since his second retirement from the pool, told CNN: “She’s showing her vulnerability and she’s doing it her own way. I was so happy for her to be able to share exactly what she wanted.”
“I think back to the struggles that I went through when I was competing,” Phelps said. “I don’t know if I would have been able to take my own words and put them on a platform for everybody to see like she’s putting herself out there.
“It said in the message that she loves playing tennis and she wanted to play tennis and maybe that helps her feel like her authentic self. So, I was ecstatic to see how everything came across, but I was also very saddened to see how much backlash there was. This is a human being that’s sharing her feelings and emotions.
“If your mental health is off, you’re not going to feel a hundred percent yourself,” he added.
“It’s pretty powerful to see Naomi use her platform and take this time for herself. She wants to get herself better. I can’t say it enough — I think this is incredible; I think it’s awesome. It’s so powerful what she did and I wish her the best.”
Earlier, tennis legend Martina Navratilova came out in support of Osaka after the incident and pointed out the need of prioritising the mental and emotional aspects of athletes.
“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,” Navratilova tweeted.
French Tennis Federation President Gilles Moretton wished Osaka the “quickest possible recovery” and said the French Open looks forward to have her next year.