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Podcast: Naomi Osaka drops out of French Open, stands up for mental health

Tennis player Naomi Osaka wearing a mask that says "George Floyd"
Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka wears a protective mask bearing the name “George Floyd” before a match at the 2020 US Open.
(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

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At just 23 years old, Naomi Osaka is already one of the best tennis players in the world. She was scheduled to play the French Open this month, which is one of the sport’s biggest tournaments. But Osaka caused a stir when she announced before matches even began that she wouldn’t be at any news conferences. She cited the “huge waves of anxiety” she feels talking at them. French Open officials weren’t sympathetic and fined her $15,000.

Then on Monday, Osaka stunned everyone. She announced she was withdrawing from the competition altogether.

On today’s show, we speak with L.A. Times sports columnist Helene Elliott about the importance of Osaka’s move. It’s highlighted an issue long bubbling in the sports world: In a place where stress is part of the game, what’s the best way to handle an athlete’s mental health?

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Host: Gustavo Arellano

Guest: L.A. Times sports columnist Helene Elliott

Further reading:

Why Naomi Osaka’s news conference boycott is a major tennis talking point

Naomi Osaka withdraws from the French Open

Naomi Osaka needs empathy and help, not condemnation, for showing strength

Listen to more episodes of The Times here

About The Times

“The Times” is made by columnist Gustavo Arellano, producer Shannon Lin, senior producers Steven Cuevas and Denise Guerra, executive producer Abbie Fentress Swanson and editor Julia Turner. Our engineer is Mario Diaz and our theme song was composed by Andrew Eapen.

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