Serena Williams, Coco Gauff and more show support for Naomi Osaka after exit

"I feel for Naomi," Williams said. "Not everyone is the same. I'm thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different."

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Fellow tennis stars have expressed support for Naomi Osaka after she exited early from the French Open Monday following her penalization for not speaking to the press after her matches. 

Osaka was fined $15,000 for refusing to participate in mandatory media conferences, circumstances she took the time to explain before the French Open began, mentioning the depression and “huge waves of anxiety” from which she’s suffered. 

In this January photo, Naomi Osaka (left) of Japan and Serena Williams (right) of the USA leave the court after their match during the “A Day at the Drive” exhibition tournament in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” the 23-year-old wrote Monday. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly.”

In a post-match news conference, Serena Williams — who is participating in the French Open — said, “I feel for Naomi. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different, and everyone handles things differently.”

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“You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can,” said Williams. “That’s the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can.” 

Williams added that many of her own press-conference experiences have been “very difficult;” she also said, however, that they have “made me stronger.” 

Naomi Osaka (left) and Cori Gauff (right) share sentiments following their Women’s Singles third-round match on Day Six of the 2019 U.S. Open in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Fellow tennis player Coco Gauff, who has been supported by Osaka in the past, tweeted to her: “stay strong. I admire your vulnerability.” 

Also on Twitter, tennis legend Martina Navratilova wrote in support of Osaka. “I am so sad about Naomi Osaka. I truly hope she will be ok,” Navratilova tweeted. “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!” 

Osaka also earned praise from NBA star Stephen Curry, who retweeted her statement and wrote: “You shouldn’t ever have to make a decision like this-but so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be don’t protect their own. major respect.” 

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