Dominic Thiem says "too little attention" is paid to mental health, but disagrees with Naomi Osaka's stance on press conferences

Dominic Thiem at the 2020 Australian Open
Dominic Thiem at the 2020 Australian Open

During a recent interview with Servus TV, Dominic Thiem weighed in on the polarizing topic of mental health in sport. The Austrian was asked about Naomi Osaka's stance on media obligations, given that the Japanese has publicly talked about their effect on players' mental health.

In his response, Thiem endorsed Osaka's larger view and stressed that "too little attention" is given towards mental health. But in the same breath the 27-year-old pointed out that he himself would avoid entering an event if he couldn't fulfill his media duties.

Naomi Osaka caused a stir at Roland Garros earlier this year by opting out of press conferences to protect her mental health. She then revealed that she has been suffering from depression since 2018. The Japanese also withdrew from Wimbledon.

She returned to the WTA Tour at the Western & Southern Open last week, but broke down in tears midway through her first press conference due to reasons only known to the four-time Slam champion.

The Japanese has always maintained that a player's mental health is not given as much importance as their physical wellbeing. Dominic Thiem agreed with her stance during his interview, pointing out how people are more forgiving when it comes to physical ailments.

"What Naomi Osaka said is basically correct, that too little attention is paid to mental health," Thiem said. "If you pull out of a tournament because of a small injury, then it's accepted immediately, but if you are not well mentally, if you don't have a good phase, then it's still a bit weird. This shouldn't be the case."

But Thiem does not see eye to eye with Osaka regarding the matter of press conferences. The defending US Open champion stated that he himself would consider sitting out of an event if he wasn't ready to tackle the media.

Naomi Osaka at the Tokyo Olympics
Naomi Osaka at the Tokyo Olympics

Thiem does also believe, however, that people should be more accepting if players choose to skip a few events citing mental health concerns.

"Where I disagree with her, are the press and media appointments, which are definitely part of it," Thiem went on. "If I'm not ready for it now, for all the effort, and the effort at tournaments is huge, then I shouldn't play there."
"Like if I say that I take a break now, or I won't play a few tournaments because I need a mental break, this should be accepted better by the public," Thiem added.

"From an early age, we, top athletes, are used to nothing more than having to win" - Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem with his 2020 US Open title
Dominic Thiem with his 2020 US Open title

Dominic Thiem is no stranger to mental pressure. The Austrian had long harbored dreams of winning a Grand Slam, which he fulfilled last year after years of hard work.

But ever since Thiem won his maiden Slam, he has struggled to find the desired amount of motivation, resulting in a series of uncharacteristic defeats this year.

During the interview, Thiem explained how sportspeople feel pressure from a very young age due to their innate desire to triumph at all costs.

"From an early age, we, top athletes, are used to nothing more than having to win this life," Dominic Thiem said. "That's why we have always been accompanied by the pressure of every match, or at every performance in other sports, from a very young age. Of course, it's hard, and there's also a fear of failure."

Thiem will not be defending his US Open title this year. The Austrian was forced to withdraw from the hardcourt Major and end his 2021 season due to a wrist injury he suffered a few months ago in Mallorca. Thiem is, however, confident he will be fully fit next year.

Edited by Arvind Sriram

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