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“I think it was very bold of Naomi Osaka to come out and make mental health a talking point”- Jill Craybas

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Former tennis player Jill Craybas believes it was “bold” of Naomi Osaka to speak out on issues of mental health in sport.

The Japanese made headlines before the French Open when she announced that she would skip all press conferences at the Grand Slam. After being fined and threatened with expulsion, Osaka withdrew from the tournament, citing mental health issues.

The four-time Grand Slam champion then went on to withdraw from Wimbledon. Following in Osaka’s footsteps, American gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of a number of events at the Tokyo Olympics, citing mental health reasons.

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Speaking on the Tennis Talk podcast, former World No. 3 Jill Craybas praised Osaka’s decision to be vocal about mental health issues.

“I always felt when she was in her media conferences, it was always a bit of like a quirky conversation. I got the sense that she is a little bit introverted but likes to express herself on social media where you felt like you got to know her a little bit more, you could see her character a little bit,” Craybas said.

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“It was intriguing to see her come out and say that that has a tough impact on her. I think it was very bold of her to come out and make it (mental health) sort of a really big talking point.”

Craybas feels Osaka’s stance has allowed many more athletes to speak openly about their mental well-being.

“I felt like its been there in the athletic world where it is something that affects a lot of athletes but wasn’t talked about as much as it is now. More athletes have started and have talked about mental health. It’s definitely something to talk about and it’s good to see that athletes are expressing it. This allows people to relate to them a little bit more,” she said.

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Naomi Osaka to return to action in Melbourne

Naomi Osaka had a turbulent 2021 season. She started off strongly by winning the Australian Open but struggled with mental health issues over the rest of the season.

Following early exits at the Tokyo Olympics, Western and Southern Open and the US Open, the 24-year-old decided to take a break from tennis, which resulted in her ranking dropping to 13th.

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Osaka will, however, return to action in a couple of weeks at the Melbourne Summer Set. She is also on the entry list for the Australian Open, where she is the defending champion.