Naomi Osaka at the 2020 US Open
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has introduced a new initiative to help players at the US Open. As per this initiative, players will be able to seek help from mental health professionals during the tournament.
The initiative is significant since it will help tackle the stigma attached to the mental health of players on the tour.
The silence around this subject was broken when Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open shortly after refusing to appear for post-match conferences. The four-time Slam champion went on to reveal that she had been suffering from depression and been experiencing immense anxiety before her press conferences.
Osaka subsequently took some time off from the tour by withdrawing from Wimbledon too, before returning at the Tokyo Olympics. The Japanese also talked about the importance of mental well-being in an interview with Time magazine, and received support from several celebrities and players for speaking out.
“I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to talk about it,” Naomi Osaka said. “There are people who can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel.”
US Open 2021 is taking a holistic approach towards player health
Something has clearly changed since Naoim Osaka opened up about the challenges she faced with her mental health. Many believe the 23-year-old has been the catalyst for the attention that is now being given to the mental health of players.
The US Open has set a precedent for all tournaments by taking a holistic approach towards player health during the 2021 edition. The medical facilities available to the players will not only focus on their physical well-being but also their mental health.
This comes with the recognition that even if a player is physically fit they may not be able to perform if they have mental health issues, and that it is important to address that aspect. The issue was addressed by Mike Dowse, the CEO and Executive Director of the USTA, in a detailed statement.
“We recognize that ensuring the mental health of the players is an area that needed to be addressed, and we are taking formative steps to give athletes the necessary resources to compete at the highest level,” Mike Dowse said.
The US Open organizers have teamed up with licensed mental health practitioners to ensure the best services for players. Quiet rooms have also been added to give players the space that they need.
In short, the US Open has taken a series of holistic measures to help players in this regard, with no stigma or strings attached.
Mardy Fish, a former quarterfinalist at the US Open and captain of the US Davis Cup team, is also part of the new mental health initiative. Fish was one of the players who came forward in support of Naomi Osaka, and has historically been very vocal about issues surrounding mental health in tennis.
The American applauded the new initiative of the US Open and called for more awareness regarding mental health.
“Mental health struggles are a reality for many individuals, athletes included,” Fish said. “And I am comforted to see that moving forward services addressing these issues will be provided in the overall medical plan at the US Open.”
This initiative at the US Open is a sign of newer things to come regarding mental health, and shows that there is increased awareness about the issue. It remains to be seen if other tournaments will follow suit and take a holistic approach towards player health too.