ABC's Coverage of The 2021 ESPYS Presented by Capital One

Naomi Osaka wins best female athlete at 2021 ESPY Awards after speaking out about mental health

“I think all of you guys are really cool and I watch some of you on TV”

Naomi Osaka isn’t just a beast on the court, she’s also doing her best to push important conversations off the court.

On Saturday, July 10, the tennis star, attended the ESPY Awards at The Rooftop at Pier 17 at the Seaport in New York City, making her first public appearance since withdrawing from the French Open and Wimbledon.

The 23-year-old was dressed in a bold striped black and white top with a green skirt by Louis Vuitton, accompanied at the event by her rapper boyfriend Cordae. During the ceremony, she won the award for Best Female Athlete.

“I just really want to not say a long speech because I’m a bit nervous,” she said during her acceptance speech. “I know this year has been really, it hasn’t even finished, but it’s been really tough for a lot of us.”

She continued, “For me, I just want to say, I really love you guys and this is my first ESPYs so it’s really cool to be surrounded by all these incredible athletes. I think all of you guys are really cool and I watch some of you on TV so it’s really surreal to be here and yeah, thank you so much and I really appreciate it.”

The tennis star previously shared that she has suffered from depression since 2018, and has largely stayed out of the public eye recently in efforts to focus on her mental health.

Ahead of the French Open’s start in May, Naomi announced that she would not be taking part in the tournament’s press conferences. After her first French Open victory, she opted out of a post-match press conference and was fined $15,000 for not participating in media requirements.

The next month, in June, Osaka chose not to play in the 2021 Wimbledon tournament. Celebrities including fellow tennis star Serena Williams and NBA legend LeBron James offered her support following her decision, agreeing the mental strain put on athletes can really take a toll.

Now, Osaka is headed to Tokyo to represent Japan at the Olympics, which will be her first major competition since May.

“After taking the past few weeks to recharge and spend time with my loved ones, I have had the time to reflect, but also to look forward, she wrote in a personal essay for TIME recently. “I could not be more excited to play in Tokyo. An Olympic Games itself is special, but to have the opportunity to play in front of the Japanese fans is a dream come true. I hope I can make them proud.”

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