Naomi Osaka admits that mental-health break was 'necessary' despite feeling 'ashamed in that moment'
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Naomi Osaka sent the tennis world into a frenzy when she announced she would be taking a break from the sport to focus on her mental health in 2021.
It’s a move that not many athletes consider, but one that should be normalised as completely ‘necessary’ as Osaka puts it.
The tennis star appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to give fans an update on how she’s doing and promote her upcoming children’s book The Way Champs Play.
It’s a book that’s based on the principles taught at her production company, formed with basketball great LeBron James.
Those principles of being kind, working as a team, doing your best, and most importantly having fun, all with the aim of improving the mental health of future athletes.
The four-time Grand Slam champion took a highly publicised break from the sport after withdrawing from the French Open in May 2021.
She explained the mix of emotions she endured as a result of the decision.
She said: “I felt like [the break] was necessary, but I kind of felt ashamed in that moment because as an athlete, you're kind of told to be strong and push through everything, but I think I learned that it's better to re-group and adjust the feelings you have in that moment and you can come back stronger.
"I wouldn't have wanted it any other way, because I learned a lot during that time."
She added: "I think for me, I've just always been taught to kind of like stick it out or work through it, and I think that's a very valuable lesson because it has gotten me through a lot of things in life.
"But there was just a point where I thought to myself like, ‘Why?' you know. And not in a negative way, but if I am feeling this way, why would I keep pushing through it when I can confront it and fix it and then continue on my journey?"
Osaka, unfortunately, faced a wealth of critics for her decision, in particular drawing the ire of controversial television personality Piers Morgan.
Morgan called her a ‘spoiled brat’ at the time and questioned whether her decision to boycott media was actually due to mental-health.
Fortunately, Osaka had many supporters on her side, in particular from fellow players who shared their admiration for the Japanese star when she returned to the court at the Tokyo Olympics.
She told Colbert: “I was kind of huddled up in my house for a while after that whole thing happened.
"Then I went to the Olympics, and there were so many athletes that came up to me, and I was so surprised, and I was so honoured because these are people that I watch on TV, and I like, I felt really grateful and felt really supported."
Since returning to the court, Osaka has been hampered by physical injuries and continues to experience anxiety and depression.
However, she manages it with therapy, meditation and the support of those around her.
Featured Image Credit: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/YouTube. DPPI Media / Alamy.
Topics: Tennis, Naomi Osaka