Osaka says Djokovic, Michelle Obama, others reached out

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NEW YORK — Naomi Osaka says former first lady Michelle Obama and sports stars Novak Djokovic, Michael Phelps and Stephen Curry were among those who reached out to offer support after she withdrew from the French Open to take a mental health break.

In an essay in Time magazine’s Olympic preview issue, Osaka – a four-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1-ranked player – wrote that she hopes “we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones,” and suggests they be allowed to sometimes skip media obligations without punishment.

“There can be moments for any of us where we are dealing with issues behind the scenes,” the 23-year-old Osaka said. “Each of us as humans is going through something on some level.”

She said before the French Open began that she would not speak to the media during that tournament, saying those interactions were sometimes uncomfortable and would create doubts for her on the court. After her first-round victory in Paris, Osaka was fined $15,000 for skipping her mandatory news conference and threatened by the four Grand Slam tournaments with the possibility of disqualification or suspension if she continued to avoid the media.

Osaka then pulled out of that tournament, saying she deals with anxiety before news conferences and has experienced bouts of depression in recent years.

“Believe it or not, I am naturally introverted and do not court the spotlight,” she wrote for Time. “I always try to push myself to speak up for what I believe to be right, but that often comes at a cost of great anxiety.”

She hasn’t played since Paris, also sitting out Wimbledon, which ends Sunday.

She will return to competition at the Tokyo Olympics, which open July 23, and where she will represent her native Japan.

“It has become apparent to me that literally everyone either suffers from issues related to their mental health or knows someone who does,” Osaka wrote in her essay, adding later: “I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s OK to not be OK, and it’s OK to talk about it.”

On the topic of news conferences, Osaka said she thinks the “format itself is out of date and in great need of a refresh.”

She also proposed giving tennis players “a small number of `sick days’ per year, where you are excused from your press commitments without having to disclose your personal reasons. I believe this would bring sport in line with the rest of society.”

Giron cruises in 3rd set, beats Rybakov at Dallas Open

2023 Australian Open - Day 1
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DALLAS – Marcos Giron advanced to the second round of the Dallas Open with a 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-1 victory over Alex Rybakov on Tuesday.

The seventh-seeded Giron, who reached the semifinals of the inaugural event a year ago, responded quickly after failing to close out the second set, winning the first five games of the deciding set.

Rybakov broke his fellow American when Giron was serving for the match in the second set. Then Rybakov won the first six points of the second-set tiebreaker.

“I’m really happy with how I was able to reset in the third and just get back to the game plan from the beginning and elevate,” Giron said. “He played well and served well and kind of hung in there.”

Eighth-seeded Adrian Mannarino of France won the final five points of a first-set tiebreaker and the last four games of the second to beat American Steve Johnson 7-6 (6), 6-2.

J.J. Wolf, the No. 6 seed, had little trouble in a 6-3, 6-3 victory over fellow American Brandon Holt.

John Isner, the fifth seed and unofficial tournament host in his hometown event, played later Tuesday. Like Giron, Isner lost in the semifinals last year.

Sock wins at Dallas Open, set to face top-seeded Fritz

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DALLAS – Wild-card entry Jack Sock opened with a 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Ilya Ivashka at the Dallas Open, setting up a second-round meeting with top-seeded fellow American Taylor Fritz.

Sock broke Ivashka’s serve in the final game to win the match. Ivashka fell behind 2-0 to start the final set but broke Sock to get back on serve.

Down a break early in the second set, Ivashka rallied to force the deciding set after Sock cruised in the first-set tiebreaker.

The eighth-ranked Fritz is back for the second Dallas Open after losing in the semifinals as the top seed in the inaugural edition of the indoor hard-court event last year. Defending champion Reilly Opelka isn’t in the field.