Why Naomi Osaka Publicly Thanked Meghan Markle

Naomi Osaka is back. The tennis superstar will return to the court for the Tokyo Olympics after sitting out Wimbledon and withdrawing from the French Open in May. Osaka created a stir when she announced, "I'm not going to do any press during Roland Garros," per her Instagram page. After she missed her first interview, the Grand Slam tennis tournaments board hit her with a $15,000 fine and warned her that she could be expelled for not participating in "mandatory" interviews. Osaka subsequently quit and shared that she had "suffered long bouts of depression" and wanted to put her mental health first.

The four-time Grand Slam singles champion penned an op-ed for Time Magazine and wrote about her controversial decision." I have numerous suggestions to offer the tennis hierarchy," she wrote, "[B]ut my No. 1 suggestion would be to allow a small number of 'sick days' per year where you are excused from your press commitments without having to disclose your personal reasons." Osaka noted, "In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there, so long as it's not habitual." She also divulged that she felt pressured to reveal her "personal medical history." Osaka pointed out that she had a "consistent attendance record" and that she has only "missed one press conference in my seven years on tour." 

Osaka also stated that several high-profile celebs contacted her after she quit, including Meghan Markle.

Naomi Osaka thanked Meghan Markle for her support

Some may remember that it was Piers Morgan who first compared Meghan Markle to Naomi Osaka when he wrote a piece for the Daily Mail. He called Osaka a "spoiled brat whose fame and fortune appears to have inflated her ego to gigantic proportions." He then jumped to his favorite topic: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. "This is straight out of the Meghan and Harry playbook of wanting to have the world's largest cake and eating it, by exploiting the media for ruthlessly commercial self-promotion but using mental health to silence any media criticism." Twitter wasn't buying it and, per the Mirror, roasted the former "Good Morning Britain" host. One user wrote, "I wonder what it is about Naomi Osaka and Meghan Markle that so upsets Piers Morgan? Strangely, he didn't say a word when Djokovic refused to speak to the media at US Open."

In an opinion piece for Time Magazine, Naomi Osaka thanked "those in the public eye who have supported, encouraged and offered such kind words." Her list was five (powerful) names long, calling out, "Michelle Obama, Michael Phelps, Steph Curry, Novak Djokovic, Meghan Markle, to name a few." From one Piers Morgan-shamed woman to another, Osaka thanked Meghan for reaching out to her. 

Considering Meghan and Serena Williams are already besties, perhaps they can include the newest tennis great in one of their get-togethers?

Naomi Osaka clarified her feelings about the press

After the tennis board hit Naomi Osaka with a $15,000 fine, which plenty online considered to be ridiculous, unfair, and possibly motivated by Osaka's gender and/or skin color, Osaka again took to social media to clarify her feelings about working with the press. She posted a lengthy paragraph on Instagram explaining her decision to drop out of the Roland Garros and Wimbledon competitions and said a bit more about athletes' responsibilities toward the press.

"Though the tennis press has always been kind to me," she wrote in her May 31 Instagram post, "I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world's media." She explained that she feels the rules of press conferences "are quite outdated in parts," and she hopes to work with the tournament and the tennis board to make press conferences better for all involved.

She clarified her feelings even further in her essay for Time Magazine. "This was never about the press," she writes, "but rather the traditional format of the press conference." She explains that she loves the press and has "enjoyed an amazing relationship with the media," giving much of her time and energy to "answer genuinely and from the heart." But she feels that "the press-conference format itself is out of date and in great need of a refresh." She'd like press conferences to be "less subject vs. object" and "more peer to peer."

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have been very open about the press and mental health

While it's unclear what Meghan Markle said to Naomi Osaka, it is not too surprising that Osaka's discussion of mental health would elicit a response of support from Meghan and Prince Harry. Both royals have spoken very openly in the past about their own struggles, both with mental illness and with the press, and the toll the latter can have on the former. And we've all seen the material some press outlets dole out, as illustrated above with Piers Morgan.

Meghan famously told Oprah Winfrey in their televised interview that she had struggled with suicidal thoughts. In an earlier interview with James Corden (via Yahoo! News), the Duke of Sussex admitted that the British press was a large reason he and Meghan left the UK. "We all know what the British press can be like," he told Corden, "and it was destroying my mental health. I was like, 'this is toxic.'"

Just as Osaka called for an update on the press conference format and the ability for athletes to refuse media scrutiny from time to time, Meghan and Harry worked to redefine their relationship with the British media and change the "royal rota," a British system that allows media and the royal family access to each other. According to Newsweek, the royal couple announced on their now-defunct website that they would no longer work with the Rota's group of seven publications, including four tabloids, and would instead work with specialist journalists and small presses.