Naomi Osaka thanks Michelle Obama, Meghan Markle in op-ed on mental health

Ahead of her Netflix documentary and the Olympics, the tennis star details the past few months in an exclusive Time magazine essay.

Days ahead of her highly-anticipated Netflix documentary, Naomi Osaka thanked former First Lady Michelle Obama and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle in an op-ed on mental health published on Thursday morning.

After removing herself from the French Open, taking a long social media hiatus and more, Osaka is continuing to do things her way, no matter what. The tennis star covers the latest issue of Time magazine and wrote a stirring essay for it, entitled “It’s O.K. Not to Be O.K.,” detailing her relationship to the press, the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo and her supporters in and out of the public eye.

Naomi Osaka of Japan reacts against Maria Sakkari of Greece in their quarterfinal match of the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium in March in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

In its beginning, Osaka, while honoring the purpose of press, questions the way press conferences operate in sports today. “I always try to answer genuinely and from the heart,” she writes. “I’ve never been media-trained, so what you see is what you get. The way I see it, the reliance and respect from athlete to press is reciprocal.”

She continues: “However, in my opinion (and I want to say that this is just my opinion and not that of every tennis player on tour), the press-conference format itself is out of date and in great need of a refresh. I believe that we can make it better, more interesting and more enjoyable for each side. Less subject vs. object; more peer to peer.”

She then breaks down her experience skipping out on the press conference at Roland Garros and the subsequent backlash that followed, writing, “I communicated that I wanted to skip press conferences at Roland Garros to exercise self-care and preservation of my mental health. I stand by that. Athletes are humans. Tennis is our privileged profession, and of course there are commitments off the court that coincide. But I can’t imagine another profession where a consistent attendance record (I have missed one press conference in my seven years on tour) would be so harshly scrutinized.”

She also uses the essay to publicly thank her supporters, including Obama and Markle, who has dealt with her own media scrutiny for years now.

Naomi Osaka
“Athletes are humans,” Naomi Osaka wrote in Time. “Tennis is our privileged profession, and of course there are commitments off the court that coincide.” (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

“Finally, I want to thank everyone who supported me,” writes Osaka. “There are too many to name, but I want to start with my family and friends, who have been amazing. There is nothing more important than those relationships. I also want to thank those in the public eye who have supported, encouraged and offered such kind words. Michelle Obama, Michael PhelpsSteph Curry, Novak Djokovic, Meghan Markle, to name a few.”

Osaka ends her essay expressing her excitement for the upcoming Olympic Games, where she’ll be representing the host nation.

“I could not be more excited to play in Tokyo,” she writes. “An Olympic Games itself is special, but to have the opportunity to play in front of the Japanese fans is a dream come true. I hope I can make them proud.”

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