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Hamilton slams "ridiculous" backlash to Osaka's French Open withdrawal


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F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has lauded the bravery of Naomi Osaka after she went public with her mental health struggles. 

The tennis world no.2 revealed she's been battling bouts of depression since her US Open victory in 2018. Osaka withdrew from the French Open after Grand Slam organisers threatened her with expulsion if she did not attend tournament press conferences.

"I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one," the 23-year old said prior to the clay court Grand Slam.

There's been a mixed reaction to her stance, with some offering their backing while other less evolved columnists lambasted her for wanting to protect her mental health.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku, seven-time world champion Hamilton empathised with Osaka, saying his experiences mirrored some of the Japanese star's.

"When you’re young, you’re thrown into the limelight and the spotlight and it weighs heavily on you. And probably most of us are not prepared," Hamilton told the media.

I know someone this year who has taken their life through mental health and it's deeply saddening an issue for so many people

"I think she’s incredibly brave and I applaud her for her bravery because I think it’s now asking those in power, putting them in question and making them think about how they react."

Hamilton slammed the Grand Slam organisers, who fined Osaka $15,000 and demanded she comply with their rules, despite her wish to safeguard her wellbeing and that of others.

"The way they reacted was not good, with the fine. Someone talking about their personal mental health and then being fined for it, that was not cool. I think they could have definitely handled it better."

Later, while talking to Sky Sports, the Mercedes driver added, "When they cry out for help, we should not be penalising them for those sorts of things.

"I know someone this year who has taken their life through mental health and it's deeply saddening an issue for so many people.

"We should be supporting people in those positions."

Hamilton feels more should be done for young athletes to help preserve their mental wellbeing.

"People are not taking into account that she’s a human being and she’s saying ‘I’m not well enough to do this right now’," he said, "I think that needs to be really looked into and how people react to that."

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F1 Formula 1 Formula One French Open Lewis Hamilton Motorsport Naomi Osaka Roland Garros Tennis

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