"Mental health doesn't mean mental toughness" - Andy Roddick slams Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka's critics

Naomi Osaka at the 2021 US Open
Naomi Osaka at the 2021 US Open

Four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka and multiple Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles have brought attention to a very important subject this year -- the mental health of athletes. While both have found support from large sections of fans, they have had their fair share of critics as well.

The fact that both athletes pulled out of high-profile events prompted many to question their mental toughness. However, former US Open champion Andy Roddick has jumped to their defence, clarifying that mental health and mental toughness are two separate entities.

In a recent episode of Tennis Channel Live, the American hit back at critics who called out Osaka and Biles' mental toughness.

“One of the things that I want to be like super clear about at least from where I sit is that mental health doesn’t mean mental toughness, right," Roddick said. "You’re going to sit here and tell me Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka when they get into their preferred arenas aren’t mentally tough? Give me a break. Right, like okay, so mental toughness is me sitting there at a press conference and being good at it? That’s not mental toughness."
Grab your pencils. 📝The School of Roddick is now in session. 🏫@andyroddick | #TCLive

Roddick then went on to elaborate on what he perceives to be mental toughness. He pointed out how winning gold medals and closing out matches in Majors under immense pressure are signs of the mental toughness of an athlete.

“Going, you know, the distance in matches, closing out Grand Slam events, winning gold medals, you know, when all the pressure is on," said Roddick. "That’s mental toughness. It’s not a synonym for mental health. Let’s be very clear about that."

Naomi Osaka's mental health stance

Naomi Osaka started the conversation on the mental health of athletes when she opened up about her struggles with anxiety and depression during the French Open earlier this year. Having initially refused to talk to the media, the Japanese later withdrew from the claycourt Major and subsequently took a two-month break from the tour.

Inspired by Osaka, Simone Biles also went on to reveal her battle with mental health during the Tokyo Olympics. She withdrew from the team final, the individual all-around final and several of the apparatus finals, citing mental health concerns.

Osaka took another break from the tour following her third-round defeat at the US Open to eventual finalist Leylah Fernandez. The Japanese recently revealed she feels the "itch" to compete again, but has yet to announce her date of return.

Edited by Arvind Sriram

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