Naomi Osaka Reveals How She Copes With Anxiety and Media Attention

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Olympic tennis player Naomi Osaka opened up to CBS News about her struggles with being in the public eye.

24-year-old Osaka, the highest-paid female athlete in the world, said she had to "step back" from tennis to remember how much she loved the sport. The four-time Grand Slam champion pulled out of the 2021 French Open to avoid the required press conferences and protect her mental health.

Osaka told CBS News that press conferences can be anxiety-inducing. "You can't really see the people you're talking to. And they're just asking you questions after questions," she said.

At the time, Osaka took to Instagram to explain why she pulled out of the French Open last minute. In her post, the tennis player said she "suffered long bouts of depression... and I have had a really hard time coping with that."

Osaka said that she felt embarrassed and sad from all the media attention she received because of her decision to withdraw. Now, she's realized that speaking out about her mental health struggles has helped others.

"I don't know, I was kind of hiding inside my house for, like, two weeks," Osaka explained. "But when I came out to, like, go to the grocery store or something, there was a woman that came up to me. And she was saying how her son deals with anxiety and stuff and I really helped him out a lot."

Although Osaka pulled out of the French Open in 2021, none of her sponsors withdrew their support. Fellow athletes including Michael Phelps praised the 24-year-old for speaking out about mental health.

Osaka said that people put athletes in a box where they aren't supposed to speak, but instead just perform. Her approach to withdrawing from the tournament and openly discussing mental health was in hopes to "make life a bit easier for the people that come behind."

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