Naomi Osaka Says She Won’t Talk to Journalists at the French Open

Naomi Osaka, the four-time Grand Slam singles champion, introduced Wednesday that she won’t do any information conferences at the French Open as a result of she mentioned they will too usually be damaging to the psychological well being of tennis gamers.

Osaka, 23, is considered one of the sport’s greatest stars. She made the announcement on Instagram 4 days earlier than the begin of the yr’s second Grand Slam.

Osaka mentioned she had watched too many gamers break down throughout information conferences and go away the dais in tears. She mentioned the course of felt to her like “kicking a person while they are down.”

“If the organizations think they can keep saying, ‘do press or you’re going to get fined,’ and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are the centerpiece of their cooperation then I just gotta laugh,” Osaka wrote. She mentioned she would settle for any fines levied towards her for skipping the information conferences and requested that the funds be donated to a charity devoted to psychological well being.

Spokespeople for the WTA, the girls’s skilled tennis tour, and the French Open weren’t instantly obtainable for remark.

Osaka made an estimated $55 million final yr in prize cash and endorsements.

She is hardly the first athlete to decline to communicate with the press. The N.F.L.’s Marshawn Lynch usually refused to communicate with the press when he was a star working again with the Seattle Seahawks. He famously sat in front of microphones and refused to have interaction questions forward of the Super Bowl following the 2014 common season. He garnered tens of 1000’s of {dollars} in fines throughout the playoffs that yr.

Ted Williams, the Hall of Fame baseball participant who performed his whole profession with the Red Sox, additionally had an icy relationship with the Boston media and didn’t grant interviews for prolonged intervals.

While some tennis tournaments have totally different guidelines, usually gamers should seem at a post-match information convention at a Grand Slam occasion if a journalist requests their presence, whether or not they win or lose. Fines for refusing are sometimes little quite a lot of thousand {dollars}. In 2015, Venus Williams was fined $3,000 for skipping a information convention after a loss at the French Open. She and her sister, Serena, had been fined $4,000 every in 2010 for blowing off a information convention at Wimbledon.

The French Open takes place on clay, which is taken into account Osaka’s worst floor. She will not be anticipated to win the match and could possibly be upset in an early spherical. She has by no means made it previous the third spherical in Paris.

Attending a information convention, no matter the end result of a match, is taken into account an obligation tennis gamers fulfill to promote their sport, which has struggled to keep protection in some markets in recent times as the budgets of reports organizations have been slashed.

Billie Jean King, the Hall of Fame participant who helped create the girls’s professional tour, has spoken about visiting the sports activities editors in the markets during which she performed to beg them to ship sportswriters to cowl matches throughout the tour’s early years and the significance of gamers talking with the press to promote the sport.

“I like writers,” King mentioned throughout a latest interview. “Always have.”

Osaka’s announcement comes three months after Serena Williams left a news conference in tears following a loss at the Australian Open. Williams left the podium following an innocuous query from a veteran Australian tennis journalist about her degree of play and her unforced errors after a semifinal loss to Osaka, who later gained the match.

“I don’t know. I’m done,” Williams said before abruptly leaving the room.

It will not be clear whether or not Osaka may even refuse to do tv interviews on the court docket after her matches. Those interviews have turn into a staple of Grand Slam play and are usually not confrontational. Except in the finals, solely the winner of the match is interviewed for tv on the court docket.

The query now’s whether or not any gamers will observe Osaka’s lead and whether or not tennis officers will accede to her strain and alter the necessities.

Osaka is considered one of the most influential gamers in the world. Last yr, tennis officers suspended play at the Western & Southern Open, a United States Open tuneup, after Osaka introduced that she would default her semifinal match to draw consideration to the problem of police violence towards Black individuals following the capturing of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.

The suspension of play, a transfer that a number of sports activities undertook as athletes threatened a boycott, allowed Osaka to stay in the match. She gained her postponed semifinal match after which defaulted the last due to an damage.

Days later, she started her triumphant quest to win her second U.S. Open championship. She walked to the court docket for every match carrying a masks with the identify of a special particular person of shade who had been a sufferer of racist violence.

In basic, Osaka has a cordial relationship with the press, although she retains journalists, particularly these she doesn’t know, at a distance and barely grants interviews, even to the greatest information organizations, although she has turn into a staple of trend journal covers. She mentioned her resolution to skip information conferences was not a private assault on the French Open or the handful of journalists who’ve interviewed her since her youthful years, “so I have a friendly relationship with most of them.”

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