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Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open, taking time away from tennis

FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2020, file photo, Naomi Osaka, of Japan, holds up the championship trophy after defeating Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, in the women's singles final of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. Osaka has been selected by The Associated Press as the Female Athlete of the Year.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Tennis star Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the French Open and is taking time away from the sport to focus on her mental health.

“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 wrote in a statement released via her Twitter account Monday. “I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans.”

Osaka made headlines before the tournament when she announced she would not be participating in any press conferences due to their negative impact on athlete mental health. The four-time Grand Slam champion was fined $15,000 after missing the press conference after her first-round win Sunday and her stance prompted a wide-ranging discussion on the role media plays in tennis and athlete mental health.

In a statement announcing her fine Sunday, the leaders of the four Grand Slam tournaments said Osaka had been “advised” that “should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences,” including larger fines and suspensions.

In her statement Monday, Osaka said it was never her intention to become a distraction and that she has been battling depression since the 2018 U.S. Open.

“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” Osaka wrote. “More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use that term lightly.”

With files from The Associated Press.