The U.S. Tennis Association is expanding its medical care initiatives to provide "best-in-class mental health support to players" at the US Open months after Naomi Osaka brought the issue to the international stage during the French Open.
The Grand Slam will offer licensed mental health providers so players have access throughout the tournament and will have quiet rooms set up, as well as other services.
“The issue of mental health awareness has been brought to the forefront over the course of the global pandemic, as many individuals, players included, have struggled with the stresses and emotions that have come as a result of COVID-19,” Stacey Allaster, USTA chief executive and US Open director, said in a release. “Together with the multi-dimensional pressures within professional sport, this new reality highlighted the need to provide additional resources to support all aspects of athletes’ health, including their mental health and well-being.
"We look forward to seeing how the initiatives implemented at this year’s tournament, and in the coming months, make an impact on player well-being, and will continue to look for ways to improve and adapt as we move forward.”
Dr. Brian Hainline, the first vice president of the USTA, said the group wants to make mental health services "as readily available to athletes as services for a sprained ankle — and with no stigma attached." The USTA said in its release it believes the changes will help the athletes' overall health and well-being while sending an important message to society about de-stigmatizing mental health offerings.
Naomi Osaka brought mental health in tennis to forefront
Osaka, the reigning US Open champion, first brought mental health to the forefront when she withdrew from the French Open in late May, days after saying she would not speak to the media during the tournament.
She said she suffered long bouts of depression since her 2018 US Open victory that made her an overnight international star. She said she had "huge waves of anxiety" before speaking with reports and cited a focus on her mental health for stepping away. She also withdrew from Wimbledon to take time away from the court to focus on her well-being.
Other tennis stars discussed mental health in the days that followed. U.S. Davis Cup captain Mardy Fish, who was named by the USTA as a leader in the mental health initiative set up, spoke of pulling out of the 2012 US Open because of a panic attack. And the topic flowed into other sports, particularly when two months later Simone Biles spoke of mental health when withdrawing from Olympic competition.
Barty, Osaka lead US Open odds
Osaka, who is Japanese American, lit the cauldron at the Tokyo Olympics and was knocked out of the singles tournament in the third round. She dropped to No. 3 overall world ranking. She is +600 via BetMGM to defend her title at the US Open, which begins Aug. 30. Ashleigh Barty, ranked world No. 1, has the best odds at +350 following her Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon.
Serena Williams will not be in the draw after announcing Wednesday morning she would take time away from tennis to continue healing a torn hamstring.