French Open: Osaka's discussion on mental health resonates with the audience

After losing the first round, Naomi Osaka's 2022 French Open has been canceled.

French Open: Osaka's discussion on mental health resonates with the audience

After losing the first round, Naomi Osaka's 2022 French Open has been canceled. Players remaining in the tournament will see and hear her candid discussion about anxiety, depression, and new "quiet rooms," as well as three Roland Garros psychiatrists on call. This brings out a greater awareness that mental health is less taboo than it was a year ago.

"I can remember being followed by photographers at random places, such as the grocery store, after I returned from France last year. It was really strange and overwhelming. Then, one day, a woman approached me and said that she had helped her son by speaking up," Osaka wrote in a recent email sent to The Associated Press. It all felt worth it in that moment.

Several professional tennis players spoke with The AP about Osaka's role in bringing the subject out from the shadows and helping to foster awareness.

"I think it's something that should be paid more attention to than it was when I was a teenager. It's something I didn't know back then. We're starting to see people speaking out and normalizing it a bit. It doesn't matter what it is -- it doesn't even matter if it happens on the court or off it," stated Jessica Pegula, a New Yorker who reached Tuesday's second round of the French Open.

She said, "In tennis the life we kinda live is not so ordinary." It can lead to unhealthy habits.

Taylor Fritz, No. Taylor Fritz, at No. 14, was the highest-ranking American man.

"Traveling every other week. Never being home. He said that the pressure of the rankings was too much. "Everyone is different so I feel like I'm a laid back, easygoing person. However, I do understand that it can be mentally draining.

This was not a new topic.

Her place of prominence as a four-time Grand Slam winner and former No. Her decision to withdraw from Roland Garros and her decision to be ranked No. 1 in the world, as well as her two mental health breaks, resonated widely.

"When an athlete is vulnerable and authentic, it will affect all other athletes in the sport." Becky Ahlgren Bedics is the vice president for mental health and wellbeing at the WTA. "So I don’t know if I would attribute it necessarily one person or one occasion, but... it makes other people notice and kinda say, 'Well maybe I should pursue that too.'

Paola Badosa (a Spanish 24-year-old who won Tuesday's contest) hasn't shied away talking about her anxiety.

Like others, she appreciated Osaka’s honesty.

"All of us can be called humans. All of us must deal with these mental struggles. We struggle," Badosa said. "And it is important that players such as her talk about it."

Another recent example is Bianca Andreescu (2019 U.S. Open Champion), a 21 year-old Canadian who will face Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic, in Paris on Wednesday. She announced in December that she would not be attending the Australian Open to "re-set and recover" from two years of difficult times.

"Definitely, more and more players have spoken out about it or are concerned about it. Some players are taking time out to rest and get away from all the noise. There is definitely a lot of noise when you are in the spotlight or win big tournaments. And there is a lot more pressure to back that up," Denis Shapovalov (23), a Canadian player who was a Wimbledon semifinalist last season. It's not an easy time with social media. One key point is to recognize who is important and whom you don't.

Osaka stated that she did not intend to talk to the media before Roland Garros. Osaka was fined $15,000 after her victory in the first round. The French Open and other major championships still require that she attend a mandatory news conference. She was also threatened by the Grand Slam tournaments with additional punishment if she does so again.

Osaka, however, pulled out of the tournament, disclosed what she'd been through for many years, and decided to take some time off tennis.