• Reuters

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The United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced a mental health initiative for players on Tuesday, with the main draw of the U.S. Open kicking off next week.

Competitors at Flushing Meadows will have access to the tournament’s “comprehensive medical services program,” which will include access to mental health providers and “quiet rooms” on site, the USTA said in a written statement.

“The issue of mental health awareness has been brought to the forefront over the course of the global pandemic, as many individuals, players included, have struggled with the stresses and emotions that have come as a result of COVID-19,” said U.S. Open Tournament Director Stacey Allaster.

The year’s final major unfolds as mental health in sports has become a hot topic.

World No. 2 Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open in May following a dispute with tournament organizers over mandatory media appearances, which she said placed undue pressure on players. She later disclosed she had suffered from bouts of depression for years.

French Open tournament organizers conceded later that they could do better in addressing mental health of the athletes.

Osaka is expected to play at the U.S. Open.

The issue was again front and center at the Tokyo Olympics, when four-time gold medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles dropped out of several events, citing the need to focus on her mental health, drawing worldwide support.

Brian Hainline, first vice president of the USTA and a professor of neurology at Indiana University and New York University, said he hoped the program would increase accessibility to mental health support.

“Our goal is to make mental health services as readily available to athletes as services for a sprained ankle — and with no stigma attached,” said Hainline. “We will provide an environment that fosters wellness.”

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