Tennis great Venus Williams successfully shut down the media Tuesday with her response to the backlash surrounding Naomi Osaka and her decision to boycott the press at the French Open.
After being fined $15k for refusing to speak with the French press, Osaka—a four-time Grand Slam winner—immediately withdrew from the tournament.
It was then revealed that she had been struggling with ongoing depression and anxiety that was ultimately worsened by her interaction with the media:
“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” Osaka said in her official statement.
“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”
She went on to say that she apologizes for any journalists she may have offended and hopes the focus shifts back to tennis upon her exit from the tournament.
This has sparked an intense debate about media scrutiny and the mental health of athletes because, unfortunately, Osaka isn’t the only tennis star to go through this. Venus Williams is all too familiar with dealing with the pressure from the media.
During a press conference after her first-round loss to Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova, Williams offered up her take on the situation—sharing her fiercely honest strategy on dealing with the media:
“For me personally, how I cope, how I deal with it, was that I know every single person asking me a question can’t play as well as I can and never will,” the 40-year-old said. “So no matter what you say, or what you write, you’ll never light a candle to me.”
Venus dropped the mic ?
— espnW (@espnW) June 1, 2021
A day prior, Serena Williams shared similar sentiments to dealing with harsh media demands and backlash, “I feel for Naomi,” she said. “Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently.”
While the entire situation regarding Naomi Osaka has brought in a slew of mixed emotions and opinions, there has also been an outpouring of love and support from fellow athletes of all sports including Coco Gauff and Steph Curry.
As for Venus, she was knocked out of the French Open tournament in the first round, but her epic response made her a winner for other reasons. Read some of the responses to Williams’ comment below.
Venus Williams said your insults can’t reach me because you’re not at my level??pic.twitter.com/z6vGdIAJB5
— TV Fanatic?⚜️ (@TvKhaleesi) June 1, 2021
Bringing this one back to the timeline.
A very young Venus Williams being grilled by an interviewer.
Richard Williams was having none of it… https://t.co/61DXc1GZiL
— Rex Chapman?? (@RexChapman) June 1, 2021
QUEEN VENUS WILLIAMS JUST TORCHED THE MEDIA! THEY BIG MAD! pic.twitter.com/IHH3pl9JvX
— Madam Vice President Harris is GOAT! (@flywithkamala) June 1, 2021