Pam Shriver, ESPN’s top tennis commentator and a Hall of Famer, wrote a letter to top USTA officials denouncing their role in a statement that led to Naomi Osaka’s sad withdrawal from the French Open.
Osaka, 23, withdrew Monday a day after winning her first-round match due to a statement from the four major tournaments fining her $15,000 and threatening her with a “code of conduct’’ penalty that could lead to her banning from the treasured clay-court Grand Slam event.
Osaka started the controversy by stating on social media she would not do any press conferences during the tournament due to mental health issues.
Shriver believes the tennis bodies acted insensitively.
“They needed to be more compassionate and supportive in the situation and deal with it behind the scenes,’’ Shriver told The Post in a phone interview. “They’ll never say it, but I’m sure they’d like to have it back. They lost one of the superstars of the game.
“Part of the statement was appropriate but I thought bringing in fines and code of conduct and possibility of default was wrong. Until you know all the facts about someone’s health, I didn’t like it.’’
In withdrawing, Osaka said she’s been dealing with depression since winning the 2018 U.S. Open in a controversial victory over Serena Williams.
“Things are really serious in the era we’re in with young people and their mental health,’’ Shriver said. “You don’t up the ante with that statement with the four majors coming together.
“I was thinking Osaka played well with everything going on. I thought maybe she realized she could find a way to go back holding press conferences and return to the more normal major routine to de-escalate the situation. I was wrong. She chose to de-escalate by doing the best thing for her. I don’t see how she could’ve competed the rest of the way because the situation was getting out of hand.’’
Osaka raised her profile to superstardom in winning the 2020 Open with her messaging during the Black Lives Matter movement. But her personality has always been described as quirky.
“Nah, she’s shy — she uses the word extremely shy,’’ Shriver said. “In her statement she talked about the level of anxiety when she faces the media. Those press conferences can be extremely intimidating, especially if you’re shy.”
In the 2018 Open Finals, Williams battled with the officials with the crowd on her side. Osaka was booed during the championship-trophy ceremony.
“That was on-court trauma that she went through,’’ Shriver said.
The question now is whether Osaka will return at Wimbledon.
“I think Wimbledon is very much in doubt,’’ Shriver said.