It Might Be Time for Naomi Osaka to Leave Tennis

'Washington Post' columnist says the tennis great's mental health appears to be at risk
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2022 9:55 AM CDT
Updated Mar 19, 2022 5:05 PM CDT
Naomi Osaka Might Want to Retire, for Her Own Good
Naomi Osaka wipes away tears as she leaves the court after losing her match to Veronika Kudermetova at the BNP Paribas Open Saturday in Indian Wells, Calif.   (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Tennis great Naomi Osaka has temporarily stepped away from the game more than once as she publicly grappled with the intense pressure and with depression. Her advocacy on mental health is admirable, writes Candace Buckner in the Washington Post. But an incident over the weekend suggests the 24-year-old might want to step away for good—"before the game breaks her completely," writes Buckner. During a match in Indian Hills, Calif., a woman in the stands shouted, "Naomi, you s---!" The unimaginative insult clearly rattled Osaka, who went on to lose the match and even addressed the crowd afterward about how it stung. "It’s hard to imagine this particular taunt having such an impact on another superstar athlete of her caliber," writes Buckner.

The essay is sympathetic to Osaka, described as a "ferocious" competitor on the court but supremely shy off it. Osaka has lived a relatively sheltered life outside tennis, having been raised to be a champion of the sport by her father, notes Buckner. She writes that she's not trying to be a "keyboard psychologist" with her suggestion that Osaka consider retiring. But something might have to give. "While Osaka Inc. is thriving, Naomi, the woman, is hurting," writes Buckner. "Tennis doesn’t seem to be helping. And she doesn’t owe it to anyone to keep trying—not her sponsors, not her fans and not the game." (Read the full piece.)

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