Naomi Osaka says Meghan Markle supported her after French Open exit

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Tennis ace Naomi Osaka has revealed that royal exile Meghan Markle and former first lady Michelle Obama were among the key supporters in her court after her controversial decision to quit the French Open.

In an essay for Time magazine defending her decision in May, the 23-year-old player thanked “everyone who supported me,” especially “those in the public eye.”

“Michelle Obama, Michael Phelps, Steph Curry, Novak Djokovic, Meghan Markle, to name a few,” she wrote of the powerful group.

She singled out Phelps for telling her that “by speaking up I may have saved a life.”

“If that’s true, then it was all worth it,” she wrote.

The four-time Grand Slam winner did not specify exactly what the others did to back her. Markle, 39, has opened up about her own near-suicidal mental health problems, also blaming it on the intense public scrutiny of her royal relationship with Prince Harry.

Osaka was, however, at pains to stress that her withdrawal “was never about the press,” insisting that she has “always enjoyed an amazing relationship with the media.”

“I’ll say it again for those at the back: I love the press; I do not love all press conferences,” she said.

She conceded that she enjoys a “privileged profession” that expects “commitments off the court” — but also argued players are “humans” who should be allowed “sick days” to skip press commitments without having to justify why.

“In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there, so long as it’s not habitual,” she said.

She also insisted that fears she was setting “a dangerous precedent” have clearly not been realized given that “no one in tennis has missed a press conference since.”

“The intention was never to inspire revolt, but rather to look critically at our workplace and ask if we can do better,” she said of her decision, which divided the tennis community.

She then said she “could not be more excited to play” in the Olympics in her native Japan, having taken time to “recharge and spend time with my loved ones.”

“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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