Naomi Osaka, the 20-year-old Japanese tennis player that won 2018 US Open and is on the way to win the 2019 French Open, has withdrawn from the French Open after refusing to do a news conference about match fixing. The issue came to light when Osaka addressed the issue in her news conference last Monday, insisting that she would not do a news conference after seeing a news report about the allegations.
Naomi Osaka’s French Open run was over on Thursday, but the Japanese tennis star’s withdrawal from the tournament on Wednesday was less about tennis and more about protest. Osaka had been criticized for declining to speak to the media at Roland Garros, and her refusal to do so—after winning her second Grand Slam title in January—has now become the main topic of news in France.
Naomi Osaka has won four Grand Slam tournaments, all on hard court. World number two Naomi Osaka said she withdrew from the French Open tennis tournament because she refused to talk to the press during the tournament, sparking controversy. On Sunday, a joint statement from Grand Slam organizers said Osaka could be excluded from the tournament. Last week, the 23-year-old tennis star said she would not hold a press conference at Roland Garros to protect her sanity. On Monday, she said she did not want to distract from the event. In an outside tweet, Osaka revealed that she had long suffered from depression after winning her first Grand Slam title in 2018. The Japanese, who has won four major tournaments, added that she was very excited before addressing the world media. Osaka said she would now take a break from the court, adding: When the time comes, I really want to discuss with the tourney how we can improve things for the players, the press and the fans. When Osaka announced Wednesday that she would not speak to the press, she said that expecting players to answer questions after a loss was like punching a man who had fallen asleep. The second-seeded player at the French Open won her opening match against Romanian Patricia Maria Teague in two sets and was fined $15,000 (10,570 euros) for refusing to serve the press after the match.
A situation I could never have imagined – Osaka’s testimony in full
This is not the situation I had in mind when I wrote a few days ago. I think at the moment it is better for the tournament, the other players and my well-being that I take a break, so everyone can concentrate on the tennis in Paris. It was never my intention to be a distraction, and I admit that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. Most importantly, I will never trivialize mental health or use the term frivolously. The truth is, I suffered from depression for a long time after the 2018 US Open and had a very hard time dealing with it. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m introverted, and anyone who has seen me at tournaments will have noticed that I often wear headphones because it relieves my social anxiety. While the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I would like to apologize to any kind journalists I may have offended), I am not a natural speaker and have huge waves of excitement before I address the world media. I am very nervous and find it stressful to keep trying to start a conversation and give the best possible answers. Here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious, so I decided to take care of myself and not go to the press conferences. I announced this in advance because I think the rules are outdated in some ways and I wanted to draw attention to this. I wrote a private letter to the tournament apologizing and saying I would love to talk to them after the tournament because the slams are intense. I’m going to take some time off the field now, but when the time comes, I really want to discuss with the tour how we can improve things for the players, the press and the fans.
Many athletes inside and outside tennis applauded Osaka’s stance after she announced it Wednesday, though many said talking to the press is part of the job. Under Grand Slam rules, players can be fined up to $20,000 (£14,160) if they fail to meet their obligations to the media. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has stated that players have a responsibility to their sport and their fans to communicate with the media during competition. After the win over Teague, Osaka participated in a routine on-field interview. Later on Sunday, the organizers of the four Grand Slam tournaments issued a joint statement saying that Osaka would face higher fines and a ban from future Grand Slams for her decision. Grand Slam officials added that after Osaka’s announcement on Wednesday, teams from Roland Garros asked her to reconsider her position and tried in vain to check on her well-being. After Osaka’s lack of activity, Grand Slam organizers wrote to her to offer their support and remind her of her obligations. In response, the two-time Australian Open champion tweeted: Anger is a lack of understanding. Change makes people uncomfortable. The next day, Osaka announced her decision to withdraw from the tournament entirely.