Osaka was honored with the ‘Best Athlete, Women’s Sports’ and gave a powerful speech.
“I just really want to not say a long speech because I’m a bit nervous,” she began.
“I know this year’s been really — it hasn’t even finished — but it’s been really tough for a lot of us and, for me, I just want to say I really love you guys.”
The 23-year-old continued, “This is my first ESPYs, so it’s really cool to be surrounded by all these incredible athletes. I think all of you guys are really cool and I watch some of you guys on TV, so it’s really surreal to be here.”
Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open and later Wimbledon made international news and sparked a needed discussion around mental health in sport.
She posted a message on Instagram, writing, "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."
She also added, “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.”
Additionally, she withdrew from the Berlin WTA 5000 grass-court tournament and Wimbledon. However, Osaka plans to return to the court for the Olympics, which will take place in Tokyo later this month.
(Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)