Serena Williams stood in solidarity with Naomi Osaka after she withdrew from the French Open citing mental health concerns. 

“I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it's like,” Williams said in a post-match news conference, according to HuffPost.

In a statement posted to Twitter yesterday, the 23-year-old announced she was withdrawing from the Roland Garros tennis tournament in Paris after she initially opted out of mandatory media conferences, as Blavity previously reported

“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” the four-time Grand Slam champion wrote in her statement. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”

Osaka also shared that she gets “waves of anxiety” before talking to the press and said that she struggles to answer questions during conferences. 

The tennis champion mentioned that she is willing to speak with tournament officials to help find ways to improve athlete-media relations in the future. 

“I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans,” she concluded.

Williams expressed that she, too, has had trouble facing the press after tough matches, saying, “I feel for Naomi.”

“Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently,” she said.

“Many of them [press conferences] I’ve been into where I’ve been ― very difficult to walk in in those moments,” she added. “But you know, it made me stronger.”

After Osaka defeated Williams in February at the Australian Open, the 23-time Grand Slam title holder abruptly left a news conference in tears and shared a follow-up statement regarding the loss. 

“Melbourne and my Australian fans –  Today was not an ideal outcome or performance but it happens,” Williams wrote in an Instagram caption. “I am so honored to be able to play in front of you all. Your support -your cheers, I only wish I could have done better for you today. I am forever in debt and grateful to each and every single one of you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I adore you.”

During times that may be exceedingly difficult, Williams highlighted the importance of having a strong support system for guidance, regardless of where the support may come from. 

“You really have to step forward and make an effort, just as in anything, and say, ‘I need help with A, B, C and D,’ and talk to someone. I think that’s so important to have a sounding board, whether it’s someone at the WTA [Women’s Tennis Association], or someone in your life, or maybe it’s someone you talk to on a weekly basis,” the 39-year-old said.

“I’ve been in that position too, and I’ve definitely had opportunities to talk to people and just get things off my chest that I can’t necessarily talk about to anyone in my family or anyone I know,” she continued.

Williams also backed Osaka for doing what she felt was necessary for the sake of her mental health and praised her for practicing self-care on her own terms. 

“You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can,” she said. “That’s the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can.”