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On the topic of news conferences, Osaka said she thinks the “format itself is out of date and in great need of a refresh.”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

Sakkari through to Parma Open quarterfinals; Stephens loses

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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past Arantxa Rus 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Parma Ladies Open.

Sakkari, who accepted a late wild card to the red clay court tournament, was playing her first event since losing to Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open.

The Greek player will next face Maryna Zanevska of Belgium after she eased past Dalma Galfi 6-1, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, lost to Danka Kovinic 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.

Kovinic will face Jasmine Paolini in the quarterfinals after the Italian defeated compatriot Elisabetta Cocciaretto 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

There will be an American in the final eight, however, as Lauren Davis rallied to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Sorribes Tormo had eliminated second-seeded Martina Trevisan in straight sets in the opening round.

Davis will play Mayar Sherif after the Egyptian player defeated Simona Waltert 6-3, 7-6 (1).

Also, third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania eased past Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti 6-4, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan, who beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Sorribes Tormo beats 2nd-seeded Trevisan at Parma Open

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PARMA, Italy — Sara Sorribes Tormo beat second-seeded Martina Trevisan 7-5, 6-0 in the opening round of the Parma Ladies Open – marking the third consecutive first-round loss for this year’s French Open semifinalist.

Third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu advanced when Viktoriya Tomova retired with Begu leading 7-5, 5-1.

Danka Kovinic beat Oceane Dodin 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 and will next face 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Also on the red clay courts, Mayar Sherif of Egypt eliminated fifth-seeded Anna Bondar 7-5, 6-4; Elisabetta Cocciaretto defeated seventh-seeded Nuria Parrizas Diaz 7-5, 6-1; and Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti earned her first tour-level win by beating Romanian qualifier Gabriela Lee 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.