After withdrawing from the French Open due to mental health concerns, tennis champion Naomi Osaka has helped change the trajectory of the 2021 U.S. Open.
Osaka’s personal decision led to a worldwide discussion around the importance of valuing the mental health of professional athletes, NBC News reports. It had become a part of the norm for a player to win or lose a game only to be hounded by the press in a high-profile conference immediately after.
While many have pushed themselves through the often grueling press conferences to avoid the hefty fines players are subjected to in the event they skip out, Osaka gladly accepted the penalty and suggested the French Open donate the money to a mental health charity.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 26, 2021
Now, ahead of her return to the U.S. Open in New York, new mental health initiatives have been announced by the USTA, Essentially Sports reports.
“For 2021, the US Open’s already comprehensive medical care system will evolve to include a number of new initiatives aimed at providing best-in-class mental health support to players,” an announcement from the US Open said.
“The USTA’s Mental Health Initiative will ensure that a holistic approach is taken with all aspects of player health, including mental health.”
The mental health services that will be available for the players include licensed mental health providers, quiet rooms, and other support services.
“The USTA and U.S. Open are always looking for ways to work collaboratively with the other Grand Slam events, ATP, WTA and ITF to provide the greatest level of support for our competitors,” said Mike Dowse, CEO and Executive Director, USTA. “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.”
The U.S. Open kicked off on Aug. 24, with the Women’s Singles beginning on August 26. The games run until September 12.