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Tennis legend Boris Becker thinks court phenom Naomi Osaka’s career is “in danger,” following her withdrawal from the French Open due to ongoing mental health struggles.
The six-time Grand Slam champion fears the constant pressure of competing at the highest levels — and the regular losses and frustration that come with it — could be too much to handle for someone dealing with serious psychological issues, he told Eurosport.
“Sadly, I heard her first response a couple of days ago about this media boycott and she cited mental health issues – that’s something always to be taken seriously, especially from such a young woman,” Becker said, referring to Osaka’s decision to not talk to the media at the French Open, which came before she quit the Grand Slam event Monday.
“She couldn’t cope with the pressures of facing the media, especially after she loses a match … that happens frequently and you have to deal with it,” Becker said.
That type of feedback comes with the sport, Becker said, especially for the world’s No. 2 ranked female player who has been dealing with depression since winning the 2018 US Open over Serena Williams.
“I always believed that’s part of the job,” Becker continued. “Without the media, there isn’t any prize money, there isn’t any contracts and just you don’t get half the cake.”
Becker said he “hated the media” during his playing days, but claimed Osaka has no choice but to participate in interviews moving forward if her career will continue.
“That raises much bigger questions for me because if she can’t cope with the media in Paris, she can’t cope with the media in Wimbledon, she can’t cope with the media at the US Open,” Becker said. “So I almost feel like her career is in danger because of mental health issues and now that we should take very seriously.”
Osaka’s withdrawal came one day after the 23-year-old Japanese-born star was fined $15,000 for skipping a post-match news conference following her first-round French Open victory.
Osaka, who faced possible expulsion from the tournament for her decision, tweeted that she didn’t want to be a “distraction” at the event.
“I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans,” Osaka wrote. “Anyways hope you are all doing well and staying safe, love you guys I’ll see you when I see you.”
Tennis stars are required to attend news conferences if requested and can face fines of up to $20,000 if they do not partake. Osaka is the world’s highest-earning female athlete, boasting endorsement contracts totaling tens of millions of dollars, the Associated Press reported.
The Women’s Tennis Association, meanwhile, said in a statement that mental health and awareness is one of its “highest priorities.”
“We have invested significant resources, staffing and educational tools in this area for the past 20-plus years and continue to develop our mental health support system for the betterment of the athletes and the organization,” WTA officials said. “We remain here to support and assist Naomi in any way possible and we hope to see her back on the court soon.”
Other tennis legends like Martina Navratilova offered their support to Osaka following her withdrawal, saying she was saddened by the news while claiming that the mental aspect of the sport often gets “short shrift.”
ESPN’s top tennis commentator, meanwhile, criticized the US Tennis Association for its their role in Osaka’s withdrawal.
“They needed to be more compassionate and supportive in the situation and deal with it behind the scenes,’’ Pam Shriver told The Post Monday. “They’ll never say it, but I’m sure they’d like to have it back. They lost one of the superstars of the game.”
Osaka’s appearance at Wimbledon in late June is now “very much in doubt,” Shriver told The Post.
With Post wires
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