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King praises Osaka for speaking out on mental health

Tennis legend Billie Jean King has praised Japan’s Naomi Osaka for standing up for mental health and against racial injustice.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 18, 2021, Japan's Naomi Osaka serves against Serena Williams of the US during their women's singles semi-final match on day eleven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. - Defending ch

Osaka pulled out of the French Open earlier this year after she was fined $15,000 for skipping a news conference, and was threatened with the prospect of disqualification if she continued to avoid the media.

The four-time Grand Slam champion had said that media duties had contributed to her anxiety and depression, which she had been suffering from for years.

Osaka also sat out Wimbledon, then returned to the court at the Tokyo Olympics, where she attributed her loss to the world No.42 to her inability to deal with pressure.

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Osaka and King, along with temperamental Australian Nick Kyrgios and former American player Mardy Fish were at a discussion hosted by Racquet Magazine on the eve of the US Open.

King told Osaka, “Everyone loves you guys. They listen to you guys, and I think it’s great when talk and talk about your feelings. Kids need that.”

Every time I go to any place now I have to talk about mental health. Why? Because you guys talked about it. That’s fantastic progress,” the 77-year-old gender equality advocate added.

Osaka was also praised for calling attention to racial injustice at last year’s US Open matches by wearing face masks with the names of African Americans who died in recent years.

Osaka: I will celebrate myself and my achievements

The 23-year-old said her outspokenness may be confusing people because she is talking about issues that trouble her.

But in a lengthy social media post ahead of her US Open title defense she said, “I’m gonna try to celebrate myself and my achievements more.” Osaka added that you own your life and you shouldn’t value yourself based on the standards of others.

Meanwhile, Kyrgios, whose on-court outbursts have caused him to be penalized, said the press does not seem to care about the well-being of athletes.

But King acknowledged the role that media support has played in making tennis a financially strong sport. “If we don’t get them to tell our story then we wouldn’t have what we have today,” said the winner of 39 Grand slam titles.


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