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Naomi Osaka: Things Have Got to Change

She suggests sick days for tennis players, press conference reforms
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2021 5:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – "In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there." Not so in the highest ranks of tennis, as Naomi Osaka writes following her controversial exit at the French Open. In a Time essay, the Japanese-born star dealing with social anxiety and depression blasts the intense scrutiny over her decision to withdraw from the tournament rather than face a press conference, in "preservation of my mental health." In another career, "you wouldn't have to divulge your most personal symptoms to your employer," but "I felt under a great amount of pressure" to do that "because the press and the tournament did not believe me," writes the 23-year-old subject of a new Netflix documentary series.

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Osaka suggests allowing "a small number of 'sick days' per year where you are excused from your press commitments without having to disclose your personal reasons," to bring the sport "in line with the rest of society." She also suggests revising the "out of date" press conference format to make it "more interesting and more enjoyable for each side. Less subject vs. object; more peer to peer." Osaka adds that none of this is easy for her to say publicly. Speaking up "for what I believe to be right ... often comes at a cost of great anxiety," and "I feel uncomfortable being the spokesperson or face of athlete mental health as it's still so new to me and I don't have all the answers," she writes. Still, "I do hope that people can relate and understand it's OK to not be OK, and it's OK to talk about it." Read her full piece here. (Read more Naomi Osaka stories.)

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