Japan's Matsushima 'feels for' Osaka after French Open withdrawal

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Naomi Osaka. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Naomi Osaka. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Star rugby player Kotaro Matsushima said on Wednesday he sympathised with fellow Japanese athlete Naomi Osaka after she pulled out of the French Open this week due to depression.

World number two and four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka withdrew from Roland Garros on Monday after she was fined $15,000 and threatened with disqualification for refusing to attend press conferences.

She claimed on the eve of the tournament in Paris that post-match inquests were akin to "kicking people when they are down" and they had a detrimental effect on her mental health.

"I think it's difficult for her. Tennis is a big sport across the world. Everyone watches her," Matsushima told AFP.

"Even in Japan, she has a lot of commercials and TV shows. Even in America too. I feel for her," he added.

Fullback Matsushima, who plays for French club Clermont having starred at the 2019 Rugby World Cup hosted by Japan, was born in South Africa to a Japanese mother and a Zimbabwean father.

Osaka, 23, is from Osaka, has a Haitian father but has lived and trained in the United States since being a child.

Matsushima said he had learnt from his experience at the Rugby World Cup on home soil two years ago.

"For me, I take it seriously but sometimes it gets too much," the 28-year-old said.

"After the 2019 Rugby World Cup, a lot of media were after the Japan players. You have to let it go, don't take it too seriously. Relax and not put pressure on yourself."

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