Sport Naomi Osaka's abrupt end at French Open should start new beginning for tennis in improving partnership with its stars
French Open Twitter account throws shade at Naomi Osaka over media blackout
The Roland Garros official Twitter account appeared to throw shade at Naomi Osaka on Saturday in a now-deleted tweet following the news of her media blackout at the French Open. Naomi Osaka will not be speaking to media at the French Open. "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. Osaka also sent an email to tournament organizers explaining her decision, and insisted that the move “is 100% nothing against the French Open or even the press members themselves.
about her media obligations, withdrew from the major championship Monday, citing mental health concerns.
Osaka had refused to meet with the media during the tournament. She said it was in an effort to avoid what she considered a stressful and potentially unhealthy situation. The French Open, like all tournaments, requires such sessions, citing the need for publicity to drive ticket sales, television ratings and sponsorships.
Osaka had begun earning $15,000 fines and was facing possible expulsion from the Grand Slam event.
French Open fines Naomi Osaka $15,000 for not speaking at tournament, warns of further consequences
Mike Zunino crushes a line-drive homer to left field to open the scoring in the 2nd inning on Sunday's game against the Phillies.
Instead she stepped away entirely, first from the tournament and perhaps from the sport for awhile.
“I think the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my own well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” Osaka said in a statement posted on social media. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.
“I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans."
Trying to figure out what to do next — without the fines and threats and back and forth — should be the goal. Perhaps a balance can be reached. Or perhaps the tournaments can do a better job helping players such as Osaka, who is naturally shy, to better handle postmatch interview sessions that more often than not are mundane and even unfriendly.
Naomi Osaka's sister says clay-court criticism prompted media boycott: 'Her confidence was completely shattered'
Hours after Naomi Osaka was fined $15,000 and warned of stiffer consequences for shirking French Open media responsibilities, her older sister shed light on what prompted the tennis phenom's press boycott. Mari Osaka posted a message on Reddit Sunday afternoon explaining that Naomi's refusal to speak with media started with criticism over her performance on clay surfaces. Mari, a retired tennis player, deleted the post after it gained traction on social media, but not before The New York Times verified with Naomi Osaka's team that it was written by Mari.
This is modern society running up against an ancient sport. This is the 125th French Open. Osaka is 23 years old. Mental health is better understood these days. Anxiety is no longer a taboo term — or it shouldn’t be. Just grinding through a problem is no longer considered the answer.
Finding ways to protect star players, and even help them excel, should be a goal of everyone involved in the sport.
At the same time, this is a business. The French Open needs publicity. All of tennis does — it lags in popularity in the United States. Osaka is the sympathetic figure here and the one with millions of fans, but promoters seeking to make this sport thrive aren’t automatically heartless either.
For generations tennis players helped promote the sport, these tournaments and the industry that fund the operation. Osaka has benefitted from that.
It needs to be a partnership though, because no one wins if Osaka, a four-time major champion, is sitting out big events because a secondary part of her job (albeit part of her job) is causing her too much stress.
Serena Williams on Naomi Osaka's controversial French Open exit: 'I know what it's like'
The biggest controversy of the 2021 French Open came to an end on Monday with Naomi Osaka's withdrawal, but the debate around the four-time Grand Slam champ figures to continue for some time. Osaka announced her withdrawal from the tournament via a Twitter statement after she was fined and threatened with a default for refusing to speak with the media, a choice she ascribed to concerns about her mental health. The situation has sparked a loud conversation about the mental health of athletes and the role of media in professional sports. Serena Williams, the player Osaka grew up idolizing, just wants Osaka to be OK, though.
“The truth is I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that,” Osaka said. “Anyone that knows me knows that I am introverted, and anyone that has seen me at tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.
“I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak with the world’s media."
The solution, as it is with many mental health issues, is to talk it out … and listen to each other.
Osaka acknowledged Monday that the media actually isn’t all that bad — “the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt).”
Yet she still fears interacting with them, even after what is often easy early round victories, noting that the mere thought of it had left her “feeling vulnerable and anxious.”
Is there a way to solve that? Can treatment help Osaka overcome the fear while the promoters try to meet her in the middle? This doesn’t seem to be an unconquerable divide. It certainly shouldn’t be.
Serena Williams says she feels for Naomi Osaka, also gets post-match press conference anxiety
Following Naomi Osaka's withdrawal from the French Open, Serena Williams said she has experienced the same type of anxiety.“The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like," Williams said.
The two sides need each other. As such, they should work together.
It’s good that Osaka was honest with her situation and chose to focus on herself. It’s unfortunate that it spoils her chances in Paris, but something had to give. This is just one tournament in what is hopefully a long career full of them.
Naomi Osaka is a wonderful player and personality. The last thing the sport of tennis needs is for the business of tennis to force her to the sideline, which appears to be the last thing she wants either.
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50 Parting Thoughts From the 2021 French Open .
Wrapping up the 2021 French Open, where Barbora Krejcikova won her first major title and Novak Djokivic won his 19th Grand Slam. A major that started inauspiciously—with a global cause celebre—ended on a quiet, dignified note, albeit without Rafael Nadal winning and without a seeded woman taking the title. Cleaning out the notebook from the 2021 French Open with 50 assorted thoughts. First, my publisher would clobber me like Novak Djokovic would clobber a return, if I didn’t plug this, so kindly note I have a book about the Summer of 1984.