On Friday night (Sept. 3), the world’s no.3 ranked player, Naomi Osaka, suffered a major upset in the third round of the 2021 U.S. Open. The two-time U.S. Open champion journey to a third title did not go as planned but ended in tears with her defeat to 19-year-old Canadian player Leylah Fernandez 5-7 7-6(2) 6-4. Osaka left the court after uncharacteristically losing her cool in the second set tiebreak. Osaka whacked her racquet and then flung it onto the court twice in frustration as Fernandez scored five straight points in the tiebreak. In her post-match press conference, Osaka burst into tears and also addressed the incident.
Regarding the racket abuse, Osaka told the reporters that she couldn’t hold her emotions, saying: “I’m really sorry about that. I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like maybe there was a boiling point.” Osaka then went on to tearfully tell the reporters she plans to take an indefinite break from the sport. “I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do. Honestly, I don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while. I feel like for me recently, like, when I win, I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry. ”
Osaka, 23, has sparked a new conversation around mental health in professional sports. Back In May, Osaka withdrew from the French Open tournament. Before the tournament, Osaka said she wouldn’t be participating in news conferences at Roland Garros, citing her mental health. She later revealed in a post on social media that she had experienced “long bouts of depression” following her breakthrough US Open win in 2018. Osaka then skipped Wimbledon and didn’t play again until the Olympic Games in her native Japan.
Many athletes voiced their support for the four-time Grand Slam champion. “Take all the time you need to recover, rest, and heal, @naomiosaka,” 12-time Grand Slam singles champion Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “Sending you love and support.” Retired American tennis player James Blake applauded her decision. “Please do what is best for you @naomiosaka,” he said on social media. “We want to see your extraordinary tennis again, but more importantly, we want to see you happy.” We send Osaka our love and support.