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Serena Williams, sports stars support Naomi Osaka's French Open withdrawal

Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday due to her concerns over mental health. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday due to her concerns over mental health. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

June 1 (UPI) -- Serena Williams is among the latest star athletes to issue a statement of support this week for Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open to address personal mental health concerns.

"I feel for Naomi," Williams told reporters Monday in Paris. "I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it's like. I've been in those positions."

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Osaka withdrew from the Grand Slam on Monday. She announced Wednesday that she planned to skip the event's mandatory news conferences because of mental health concerns. On Sunday, French Open officials fined Osaka $15,000 for failure to participate in a news conference.

Osaka beat Patricia Maria Tig in the first round on Sunday in Paris. She was scheduled to face Ana Bogdan in the second round, but conceded the match. Osaka said in a statement that her "timing was not ideal" and her "message could have been clearer."

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"The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018, and I have had a really hard time coping with that," Osaka wrote Monday on social media.

Several tennis stars, fellow athletes and celebrities responded with messages of support for the No. 2 player in the WTA rankings.

"Stay strong," No. 25 Cori 'Coco' Gauff tweeted. "I admire your vulnerability."

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Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, Lewis Hamilton, Kyrie Irving, Usain Bolt and Michelle Wie were among the other athletes to respond to Osaka on social media.

Serena Williams spoke to reporters about Osaka during her news conference after she beat Irina-Camelia Begu on Monday at Roland Garros.

"We have different personalities," Serena said of Osaka.

"People are different and not everyone is the same. I'm thick and other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can.

"I think she's doing the best that she can."

French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton responded to Osaka's withdrawal Monday at a news conference, telling reporters that tournament officials are "sorry and sad" Osaka pulled out of the tournament and called the withdrawal "unfortunate."

Osaka said she plans to take "some time away from the court" and did not say when she plans to return.

"I'll see you when I see you," Osaka wrote Monday on social media.

Moments from Serena Williams' career

Serena Williams returns the ball to her sister, Venus, during their match at the Lipton Tennis Championship in Key Biscayne, Fla., on March 28, 1998. Venus Williams, defeated her sister 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Photo by Susan Knowles/UPI | License Photo

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