Golfer Rory McIlroy voiced his support for tennis star Naomi Osaka following her decision to take a break for the sport, saying he could relate to what his fellow athlete is going through.
After falling to teenager Leylah Fernandez in the third round of the US Open on Friday, Osaka said winning didn’t bring her happiness, only relief, and losing made her feel “very” sad.
“I spoke about this in 2019 about separating who I am as a golfer and who I am as a person and trying to not let that define me,” McIlroy, the four-time major winner, said after his 14th place finish at the Tour Championship. “It seems what Naomi is going through at the minute is that same thing. How can I play tennis and enjoy it and not let the results define who I am … I think everyone just needs to let her have time to figure that out.”
The 32-year-old McIlroy is the latest athlete to show support for Osaka, joining tennis greats Billie Jean King and Boris Becker, as well as former American sprinter Michael Johnson.
“She seems like a really smart girl, and hopefully she’ll be able to do it and come back and start enjoying the game just like when she picked the racket up when she was a little girl,” McIlroy said.
The 23-year-old Osaka, who has taken breaks from tennis recently, citing her mental health, said she she didn’t know when she would play her next tennis match.