Tennis’ Four Horsemen Should Be Ashamed!

After a brow beating of apocalyptic levels, Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the French Open. Her decision comes after a first round win over Tig, 6-4, 77-64. This catastrophe sits at the feet of the four leaders of the sport: Moretton (French), McNulty (USTA), Hrdlicka (Australia) & Hewitt (Wimbledon). They coordinated. Threatened. Then grew quiet when she took her racket and went home. She’ll return, hopefully stronger and better supported. But the sport has fumbled yet another ball…

Tennis, like the NFL, is tone deaf and protest blind. Only a right wing sport would post a now deleted tweet with photos of Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff engaging in media duties with the caption, “They understood the assignment.” They simply do not have the range. They are unprepared to take tennis into this age of self-care (wellness) especially with the looming racial reckoning/war.

The shame also lands at the press’ feet! As Jonathan Liew details in The Guardian, “Rather than scrutinising what that says about her, it might be worth asking what that says about us.

The Guardian

While media outside of tennis skewer the sport, tennis players and commentators continue to tow the company line. Very few players, and even fewer top players supported Osaka before her withdrawal. Most are afraid of backlash from tournaments, sponsors, fans. Tennis players are bred to be milquetoast. Even Serena Williams’ response was not a ringing endorsement. She really put the owness on Osaka to seek help, without addressing organizational issues. Typical.

It is clear that in this situation, the four horsemen have shown a lack of foresight, and humanity. Their reaction was financial, with more concern for marketing/branding and power/control than player well-being. This will not play-out well for the sport, especially now that the story has crossed over. It is now a hot topic outside the sport; it is center stage on the news, talk shows, podcasts, social media… The View, MSNBC, The Breakfast Club Radio, Ebony Magazine and the like have much to say and they are not fawning over tennis’ leaders.

Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience


With the exception of contrarian Piers Morgan, most agree, the sport failed Osaka. The four horsemen will fair no better than NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell. Athletes are no longer willing to just shut-up and play. And they have their fans’ support. Athletes, especially non-tennis, Nike, Mastercard and a slew of celebrities have offered Osaka kind words of support.

Though I am not a trained psychologist, I long observed the signs. In every on camera interaction it was clear that this was not just a shy young woman. This was an introvert with a need for additional support, not coddling, just support. Instead tennis tournaments treated her, and to be fair all its players, like race horses. Objects to be blindfolded, ridden and discarded. Most don’t understand the toll social interactions take on introverts, much less mentally compromised people. But as a sport, tennis should have a full range of mental health professionals on staff to guide their protocols, decisions, players interactions.

Osaka’s withdrawal is the ultimate checkmate!

This colossal blunder, royal faux pas if you will, is far from over. Till Osaka returns and the sport institutes change to support the mental health of all its players, tennis will have a scarlet letter. But this is a sport with no commissioner and an eleven month calendar so its clear, players are not the priority! The leaders of the sport’s four grand slams, can either sit in the shame of this public flogging or put their big boy pants on get to work fixing the sports many ills.

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