Serena Williams has given her backing to Naomi Osaka, after the world number 2 pulled out of the French Open last night.
The 23-year-old had been involved in a standoff with organisers over her failure to take part in required press conferences.
Osaka had been fined $15,000 for failing to appear at her press conference on Sunday following her round 1 match, before confirming her decision to withdraw last night.
Osaka says she will be taking time away from the game to deal with ongoing bouts of depression which she has experienced since the 2018 US Open.
On that occasion, she won her first grand slam title by beating Serena Williams in the final at Flushing Meadows. Williams had been disqualified in the final, resulting in a huge media fallout.
Speaking last night, Serena Williams backed Osaka's decision to take time out of the sport, adding she needs to do what's best for her.
"Honestly I just found out before I walked into the press conference, so that's the extent of it right now for me," said Williams following her first-round win against Irina-Camelia Begu last night.
"The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it's like. I've been in those positions.
"We have different personalities and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way she thinks she can, and that’s the only thing I can say. I think she’s doing the best she can," she said.
Among those to also give Osaka her backing was 18-time Grand Slam winner Martina Navratilova, who said: "I am so sad about Naomi Osaka. I truly hope she will be ok. As athletes, we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental and 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!"
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