How Has Japan Reacted To Naomi Osaka’s French Open Withdrawal? - UBITENNIS
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How Has Japan Reacted To Naomi Osaka’s French Open Withdrawal?

Whilst Osaka lives in America, officials back in her native country have spoken out.

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Naomi Osaka training at the 2021 Madrid Open (image by Media Hub Mutua Madrid Open)

In 2018 Naomi Osaka was ranked as the eighth most popular athlete among female respondents in a survey conducted by Central Research Services in Japan and that was before she won her first major title. Since then her popularity, endorsements and subsequent media spotlight have exploded to the delight of her country.

 

Osaka has sponsorship deals with the likes of Nissan Motor, Shiseido and Yonex. Furthermore, she is one of the faces of the Olympic Games which will be held in Tokyo later this year. She has achieved many firsts for Japanese tennis, including becoming the only person to have reached No.1 in the world.

Following her decision to withdraw from the French Open due to mental health concerns, many in her Japan have rallied around in support of her.

The first thing to be considered is Ms. Osaka’s health. I wish her the earliest possible recovery,” Japan Tennis Association (JTA) Executive Director Toshihisa Tsuchihashi said in a statement on Tuesday.

Things started to unfold for the four-time Grand Slam champion last week when she announced that she would not be conducting any press conferences in Paris. At the time she said her decision was so she would not face any questions which could have made her doubt her performance. Osaka’s announcement made headlines worldwide and infuriated some officials. Causing such a stir that even the Grand Slam Board warned her that she faced potentially being defaulted from the tournament if she continued to not fulfil her commitments. She was fined $15,000 for not conducting her press conference after the first round.

However, the depth of Osaka’s woes wasn’t made public until Tuesday when she confirmed her withdrawal. In a second statement she said for the first time she has been suffering from depression since 2018, as well as social anxiety. Going on to say she will be taking a break from the sport.

Ai Sugiyama is a former star of Japanese tennis who won six WTA titles in singles, as well as rising to world No.1 in the doubles during her career. She hopes the Osaka situation will ‘”make a splash and create an opportunity to talk about athlete’s mental health. ” Even more so in Japan where mental health education will be taught in schools from 2022 for the first time in 40 years.

“There’s a big difference between people’s personalities, and I think we need to consider things on a case-by-case basis,” Japan Today quoted Sugiyama as saying.
“I think the system where you absolutely have to turn up and you’re fined if you don’t is a little out-dated.”

In the world of politics, cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato says he couldn’t imagine the pressure Osaka is currently facing. Sportico previously reported that she made $55M in earnings over a 12-month period which is a new record for a female athlete.

“(Osaka) has said she intends to leave the court for a while, so I would like to keep an eye over her,” asahi.com quoted Kato as telling reporters.

Osaka has made no comment as to when she may return to the Tour.

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Felix Auger Aliassime leads the ATP Next Gen Race to Milan

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Felix Auger Aliassime rose to the top of the ATP Next Gen Race to Milan after strong performances at Wimbledon, Cincinnati and at the uS Open. 

 

After reaching the quarter final at Wimbledon the Canadian player advanced to the last eight at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati before losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas. It was the second time he reached the quarter final in a Masters 1000 tournament. 

At the US Open the 21-year-old Canadian player edged Roberto Bautista Agut in a five-set match before beating Frances Tiafoe to reach the semifinals. Auger Aliassime became the first Canadian player to reach the semifinals at the US Open in the tournament history and the youngest player since Juan Martin Del Potro won the tournament in 2009. 

“I am happy with the level I have been playing at times, with the results I have had. It’s a positive week. Things are moving in the right direction”, said Auger Aliassime. Carlos Alcaraz has become the fourth player to secure a spot in the Next Gen ATP Finals after Auger Aliassime, Jannik Sinner and Sebastian Korda. Alcaraz became the youngest US Open quarter finalist in the Open Era after scoring an upset third-set win over Stefanos Tsitsipas. The player coached by Juan Carlos Ferrero also won the ATP 250 title in Umag and reached the semfinals in Marbella and Winston Salem.

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Liudmila Samsonova sets up semifinal against Jelena Ostapenko in Luxembourg

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Liudmila Samsonova upset this year’s Olympic champion Belinda Bencic 6-1 6-4 with three breaks of serve to reach her third semifinal of the season at the Luxembourg Open. 

 

Samsonova broke twice in the second and sixth games to win the first set 6-1. The Russian player claimed the second set 6-1 with a break in the third game and sealed the win on her first match point. 

Samsonova beat Bencic for the second time this season after beating the Swiss player in the final of the WTA grass tournament in Berlin. 

Bencic dropped serve three times in her first tournament since reaching the quarter finals at the US Open where she lost to eventual champion Emma Raducanu. 

Samsonova will face 2019 Luxemburg Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who edged past Alizé Cornet 7-6 (8-6) 6-2. Ostapenko improved her winning streak to 8-0. Ostapenko went down a break twice in the first set. Cornet earned a chance to serve for the set at 5-4, but Ostapenko did not face any set point. Ostapenko saved the first set point in the tie-break before earning the mini-break to win the tie-break 8-6. Ostapenko broke twice in the third and seventh games to win the second set 6-2. 

Marketa Vondrousova completed the semifinal line-up with a 7-5 6-2 win over number 2 seed Elise Mertens after 1 hour and 37 minutes. Mertens broke serve in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead. Vondrousova won four consecutive games with two breaks to take a 7-5 lead. The Czech player broke twice in a row in the third and fifth games to win the second set 6-2. 

Clara Tauson broke twice in each set to beat Marie Bouzkova 6-3 6-2. 

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Venus Williams Explains Met Gala Photo With Maria Sharapova

The former world No.1 says she and her sister Serena have ‘respect and love’ for Sharapova.

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Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams at the 20201 Met Gala (image via Instagram)

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams says there are no hard feelings between her, her sister Serena and Maria Sharapova after the trio took a photo together at the Met Gala.

 

The former world No.1s was seen smiling and laughing together at the New York fundraising event with both of the Williams sisters uploading a photo of them all on their Instagram story. Prompting surprise from some fans considering the at times icy rivalry between Serena and Sharapova that dates back to the 2004 Wimbledon Championships.

In her 2017 autobiography, Unstoppable: My Life So Far, Sharapova mentioned Serena’s name more than 100 times. She says the American hated her for beating her at Wimbledon that year and that the two were ‘not friends.’

“What I heard when I came in to the locker room was Serena Williams bawling,” Sharapova wrote.
“Guttural sobs. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there.
“I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds … I think she hated me for seeing her at her lowest moment.
“But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. She’s never forgiven me for it.”

Responding to the claims, Serena hit back at the book in 2018 by describing it as ‘hearsay’ and said she never had any ‘negative feelings’ towards Sharapova. The two clashed on the Tour no fewer than 22 times with Serena winning 20 of those meetings.

“So I don’t have any negative feelings towards her, which again, was a little disappointing to see in that hearsay book,” Williams commented back in 2018. “So I have always, you know, and especially having a daughter, like, I feel like negativity is taught. One of the things I always say, I feel like women, especially, should bring each other up.”

Three years later and it now seems that all parties have put their disagreements behind them. At the Met Gala they were seen getting on pretty well. Besides posing for a photo together, they were also seen together in the bathroom at the event. A photo taken by pop star Anitta and rapper Saweetie which showed them in the background.

Speaking about the event for the first time, 41-year-old Williams said she wishes Sharapova was still playing before adding that they still ‘respect and love’ each other.

“First of all, Serena and I were talking about Maria the day before,” the 41-year-old explained on Instagram.
“We were like, ‘Damn, I wish Maria was still playing.’
“And we saw her, and we both told her separately, ‘Oh my gosh, we were just talking about you yesterday, we wish you were still on tour.’
“We were so happy to see each other. There was hugs, there was laughing, there were stories, and there was a photo.
“So the backstory is that even though us players compete really hard of the court for years, we still respect and love each other, and love Maria
.”

Williams, Serena and Sharapova have won a total of 35 Grand Slam singles titles between them.

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