By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
Naomi Osaka returned to the spotlight for the first time since withdrawing from the French Open in May and skipping Wimbledon, posing on the red carpet at The ESPYS on July 10.
The world’s highest-paid female athlete faced a slew of photographers in New York, with one being heard urging her, “Nice smile” as cameras clicked furiously. Osaka offered a faint closed-mouth smile in response.
Osaka won trophies as the best athlete in women’s sports and best women’s tennis player at the annual show honoring the year’s top athletes and sports moments. It was moved from Los Angeles to New York for an outdoor, socially distanced show this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Osaka, who has won four Grand Slam titles, pulled out of the French Open before the second round, saying she has “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking to the media and that she has “suffered long bouts of depression.” She also sat out Wimbledon. She’ll return for the Tokyo Olympics, representing her native Japan.
She high-fived boyfriend-rapper Cordae from YBN Collective before taking the stage.
“I just really want to not say a long speech because I’m a bit nervous,” Osaka said. “This year has been a really, it hasn’t even finished, but it’s been really tough for a lot of us. For me, I just want to say I really love you guys.”