Rafael Nadal, others react to Naomi Osaka's French Open media blackout
Other stars in the tennis world are split on how to feel about Naomi Osaka’s decision not to meet with any reporters at the French Open.
Some, when asked about it Friday ahead of the Grand Slam that starts Sunday in Paris, stood by Osaka’s decision while others felt that meeting with reporters at an event like the French Open is a very important part of the sport — especially when it comes to growing the game.
“Without the press … probably we will not be the athletes that we are today,” 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal said, via The Associated Press. “We [aren’t] going to have the recognition that we have around the world, and we will not be that popular, no?”
Osaka made her announcement on Twitter on Wednesday, and cited mental health concerns.
"I've often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one,” she wrote, in part. “We're often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me."
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 26, 2021
Osaka, 23, has +1600 odds at BetMGM of winning the French Open.
Daniil Medvedev, who is the No. 2 player in the world, said he understands Osaka’s decision but that he doesn’t feel the same way she does at all about speaking with reporters.
“I understand why she does it. I respect her opinion,” Medvedev said, via The Associated Press.
“Me, I have no problems … I try always to come to a press conference, bad mood or good mood. And I feel like, even sometimes in the bad mood, I can be in a better mood after talking to you guys.”
While Ashleigh Barty, the top-ranked woman in the world, declined to comment on what Osaka is feeling personally, she said that she views speaking with reporters as simply part of being a professional tennis player.
“In my opinion, press is kind of part of the job,” Barty said, via The Associated Press. “We know what we sign up for as professional tennis players ... At times, press conference are hard, of course, but it’s also not something that bothers me.
“For me, personally, doesn’t keep me up at night what I say and hear or what you guys ask me. So I try and make it a little bit lighter and have a bit of fun with you guys. For me, it’s a little bit different, but I can’t comment on [Osaka] personally for what she’s going through, so I suppose you’ll have to ask her that next time you chat to her.”
WTA responds to Osaka’s media blackout
The WTA Tour responded to Osaka’s statement with one of its own on Friday.
Speaking with reporters, it said, is part of the responsibility players have.
“The WTA welcomes a dialogue with Naomi (and all players) to discuss possible approaches that can help support an athlete as they manage any concerns related to mental health, while also allowing us to deliver upon our responsibilities to the fans and public,” a WTA spokesperson said, via The Associated Press. “Professional athletes have a responsibility to their sport and their fans to speak to the media surrounding their competition, allowing them the opportunity to share their perspective and tell their story.”
Osaka sent an email to French Open organizers after her statement to explain her motives, and insisted that it “is 100% nothing against the French Open or even the press members themselves.” The fact that she is doing this now during the event is “just pure coincidence and nothing personal.”
As suspected, there is nuance here....an email @naomiosaka sent to @rolandgarros organizers explaining her stance more fully : pic.twitter.com/xw1FXNTS2J
— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) May 27, 2021
“This stance is against the system requiring athletes to be forced to do press on occasions when they are suffering from mental health,” Osaka wrote, via Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim. “I believe it is archaic and in need of reform. After this tournament I want to work with the Tours and the governing bodies to figure out how we best compromise to change the system.”
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