Naomi Osaka: Snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan calls tennis star a 'trailblazer'

Snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan has branded four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka a "trailblazer"

Snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan has branded four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka a "trailblazer".

In an interview with The Sportsman, Sullivan commended Osaka for publicising her mental health struggles.

The Japanese tennis star took time away from the court after the French Open, before deciding to take another break after crashing out of the US Open last month. She revealed that "winning doesn’t make me happy any more".

O’Sullivan has endured his fair share of mental health struggles, deciding to take a year away from snooker in 2012.

And after a first-round World Championship win in 2016, O’Sullivan smashed his cue in his dressing room before leaving the venue and checking himself into a clinic for a week with exhaustion.

O’Sullivan, a six-time world champion, spoke candidly about Osaka’s decision to temporarily step away from sport.

"She is a great player, and isn’t going anywhere – and I’m sure the break will do her some good," he said. "She is just chilling out and enjoying herself and everyone should let her do that.

"I just think a lot of the time everyone on the outside makes more of a big deal about what you may or may not be doing – a lot more than you do yourself. For me I wasn’t doing anything special winning what I won, playing how I played or taking the year off and I am sure Naomi is the same."

Naomi Osaka decided to take a break from tennis after the US Open

O'Sullivan added: "Some days everyone is sucking up to her saying she is great over her tennis and she is just thinking 'But I do that every day'.

"And the same is true of her deciding to take some time out and spending it with friends and family, it’s just what she felt like doing. That isn’t a bad thing. Good luck to her, she has worked hard and is now in a position to make those choices for herself."

Osaka is just the latest sportsperson to speak out about mental health. Simone Biles did the same at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, withdrawing from a number of events after revealing she was struggling with the "twisties".

Ronnie O'Sullivan has been open about his own mental health struggles

O’Sullivan suggested Osaka was a "trailblazer" for her openness about mental health. Indeed, Biles cited the tennis star as an inspiration during Tokyo 2020.

"I guess she can take some time off with £100 million in the bank," he joked. "But seriously, not for one second would I belittle anything about what she is doing, everyone knows how much I have publicly spoken out on mental health and personal wellbeing.

"I think she is great, I admire the girl and she is standing up for what she believes in and is a bit of a trailblazer – and has a lot of support from sportspeople across the world.

"They recognise what she is saying and hope players and athletes get a bit more support."

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