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 stated they will too typically be damaging to the psychological well being of tennis gamers.
Osaka, 23, is certainly one of the recreation’s largest stars. She made the announcement on Instagram 4 days earlier than the begin of the yr’s second Grand Slam.
Osaka stated she had watched too many gamers break down throughout information conferences and go away the dais in tears. She stated 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 stated she would settle for any fines levied in opposition to 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 ladies’s skilled tennis tour, and the French Open weren’t instantly out there for remark.
Osaka made an estimated $55 million final yr in prize cash and endorsements.
She is hardly the first athlete to decline to converse with the press. The N.F.L.’s Marshawn Lynch typically refused to converse with reporters when he was a star operating again with the Seattle Seahawks. He famously sat in entrance of microphones and refused to interact questions forward of the Super Bowl following the 2014 common season. He garnered tens of 1000’s of 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 durations.
While some tennis tournaments have totally different guidelines, typically 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 . In 2015, Venus Williams was fined $three,000 for skipping a information convention after a loss at the French Open. She and her sister, Serena, had been fined $four,000 every in 2010 for skipping a information convention at Wimbledon.
The French Open takes place on clay, which is taken into account Osaka’s worst floor. She isn’t 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 final 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 lately as the budgets of reports organizations have been slashed.
Billie Jean King, the Hall of Fame participant who helped create the ladies’s professional tour, has spoken about visiting the sports activities editors in the markets through 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 stated throughout a latest interview. “Always have.”
Osaka’s announcement comes three months after Serena Williams left a information convention 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 stage of play and her unforced errors after a semifinal loss to Osaka, who later received the match.
“I don’t know. I’m done,” Williams stated earlier than abruptly leaving the room.
It isn’t 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 could be whether or not any gamers will observe Osaka’s lead and whether or not tennis officers will accede to her stress and alter the necessities.
Osaka is certainly 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 situation of police violence in opposition to Black individuals following the taking pictures 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 received her postponed semifinal match after which defaulted the closing due to an harm.
Days later, she started her triumphant quest to win her second U.S. Open championship. She walked to the court docket for every match sporting a masks with the title of a distinct individual of coloration 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 largest information organizations, although she has turn into a staple of style journal covers. She stated her determination 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.”