The decision of Naomi Osaka to leave Roland Garros shocked the sports world. The Japanese tennis player, number 2 in the world, had a turbulent week: first she refused to attend the classic post-match press conferences, then she received a fine and finally admitted that she had suffered from depression since 2018, or the victory of the his first Grand Slam tournament (the US Open). Osaka had stated that the desire not to attend meetings with journalists was linked to the “Protection of his mental health”.
Certainly a difficult situation, and to be respected. Because sports champions can have problems as well as those who lead a life away from the spotlight. Often the economic gains do not have the power to cover the difficult moments of existence, and Osaka developed the condition just after he began to rack up a string of tennis successes of exceptional level. Seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton also lined up in his defense.
The Mercedes driver wrote some words dedicated to Osaka on Instagram. “We are all just human beings. Mental health is not a joke, it is a serious and concrete problem. It takes a lot of courage to deal with depression. We need to make sure Naomi doesn’t feel alone. Today, like every other day, is the right time for everyone to stop and ask our friends and loved ones if they are feeling well, to make them understand that they are not alone. Just a small message is enough, a few words can do a lot“Wrote Hamilton.
Verstappen: “Leadership resulting from fewer mistakes”
“I fully understand what Naomi is feeling. I would like to be in a position to hug her because I know what it’s like to be in her position, even though we may have a different personalityLewis added. After all, Osaka had explained it: “We often sit and listen to questions we have already heard many times, or questions that put bugs in the mind. I don’t want to be subjected to questions that question me. Even though in the world of tennis many people are nice to me, and I apologize to the good journalists that I may have hurt with my words, I am not good at public speaking and before press conferences I get waves of anxiety“.
Just Hamilton at the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix he had touched on a similar topic. At the time, under pressure in the fight against Nico Rosberg in the world championship, he said: “I will not answer any questions due to the disrespectful press coverage I have received from some. Although many journalists have always been supportive and with enormous respect I hope they understand“. Max Verstappen has also had tense moments with the press in the past, especially after some mistakes made in the race and in qualifying: he threatened, albeit ironically, that he would test someone if he received further annoying questions.
The psychological component should never be underestimated, in any sport: too simplistic to consider athletes as privileged. And after all, theirs is a job that requires constant daily commitment, to which to devote most of the hours of the day. As can happen with an office employee who goes into crisis after a long week of hustle and bustle and maybe after a few digs from colleagues, even a Formula 1 driver or a professional tennis player can negatively suffer the natural interest that they feed through their competitive effort.