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US Open to offer athletes access to mental health services, including 'quiet rooms'

After athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles spoke out about mental health, one of the largest tennis tournaments in the world is making changes.

The U.S. Open will offer athletes mental health support during the 2021 tournament, including granting access to licensed providers and support services like quiet rooms.

The United States Tennis Association announced this week that the program, called the Mental Health Initiative, will "ensure that a holistic approach is taken with all aspects of player health, including mental health." The tournament also offers other medical care for athletes through a partnership with New York's Mount Sinai Health System.

The change comes as many athletes have put a spotlight on the importance of mental health. Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open in May 2021, citing social anxiety and "long bouts of depression" that made it difficult to do mandatory press appearances. Other athletes, like gymnast Simone Biles and former Olympian Michael Phelps, have talked about how the stress of competition can put undue pressure on athletes.

"The USTA and U.S. Open are always looking for ways to work collaboratively with the other Grand Slam events, ATP, WTA and ITF to provide the greatest level of support for our competitors," said Mike Dowse, the CEO and executive director of USTA, in the press release. "We recognize that ensuring the mental health of the players is an area that needed to be addressed, and we are taking formative steps to give athletes the necessary resources to compete at the highest level."

Stacey Allaster, the U.S. Open Tournament Director, said that the "new reality" of the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the "need to provide additional resources to support all aspects of athletes' health."

"We look forward to seeing how the initiatives implemented at this year's tournament, and in the coming months, make an impact on player wellbeing, and will continue to look for ways to improve and adapt as we move forward," Allaster said.

The USTA did not say whether the program would be expanded to include the other Grand Slam tournaments, which include Wimbledon, the French Open, and the Australian Open.

"The U.S. Open set the standard for staging the largest international sporting event during the pandemic in 2020," said Dr. Alexis Colvin, the U.S. Open's chief medical officer and an orthopedic surgeon and professor of orthopedic surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "We are proud to again be leading the way in 2021 by providing comprehensive medical care of all aspects of athlete health, including mental health."