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Sport Mailbag: What's Next for Osaka, Press Conference Standards After French Open?

16:10  04 june  2021
16:10  04 june  2021 Source:   si.com

'Like hell:' As Olympics loom, Japan health care in turmoil

  'Like hell:' As Olympics loom, Japan health care in turmoil TOKYO (AP) — As she struggled to breathe, Shizue Akita had to wait more than six hours while paramedics searched for a hospital in Osaka that would treat her worsening COVID-19. When she finally got to one that wasn’t overwhelmed with other patients, doctors diagnosed severe pneumonia and organ failure and sedated her. Akita, 87, was dead two weeks later. “Osaka’s medical systems have collapsed,” said her son, Kazuyuki Akita. He has watched from his home north of Tokyo as three other family members in Osaka have dealt with the virus, and with inadequate health care. “It’s like hell.

a woman with a racket on a tennis court holding a racquet © Provided by Sports Illustrated

After her withdrawal from the 2021 French Open sparked conversations on both mental health and press conferences at sporting events, where does Naomi Osaka go from here?

Wednesday is Mailbag Day so here we go….

Obviously the questions were dominated by Osaka and the various angles—and there are infinite ones—to this regrettable saga. I wrote this on Monday night. Here are some additional thoughts, bullet point points trying to incorporate as many of yours as possible. But also, a quick hat-tip to you guys. Lots of viewpoints and thoughts all over the spectrum, but almost all reasonable and thoughtful. How do we transfer that energy to the cesspool of social media?

French Open Twitter account throws shade at Naomi Osaka over media blackout

  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.

• Osaka’s mental health challenges are well known within tennis. She has referenced them. Anyone who has been around this sport and at all attentive would recognize that there are stressors she confronts. The response by tennis’ administration was, at best, a misread. Their joint statement was way out of proportion, the equivalent of bringing an Uzi to a knife-fight. (For a group of events that can’t agree on much—from dates to the best way to end matches in decisive sets—THIS was the time you act in concert?)

• We need to acknowledge that some culpability resides with Osaka. Or at least with her roll-out. There was no discourse, no heads-up. The tournaments were caught flat-footed. Some members of her own team were caught flat-footed. The WTA was caught flat-footed and felt that Osaka had minimized the tour’s various mental health initiatives. The media—which has largely adored Osaka and treated press conference not as interrogations but as free-flowing conversations—felt misrepresented. Her wording was imprecise. Her sister’s follow-up was endearing in its honesty, but raised as many questions as it answered. (Wait, it was a family member who planted doubt?) If the theme is ‘’it should not have come to this,” Osaka played a role as well.

French Open fines Naomi Osaka $15,000 for not speaking at tournament, warns of further consequences

  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.

• The media is not the devil. The media is not unfeeling. Press conferences are not often confrontational. These are not inquisitions. (Osaka’s press conferences, ironically, are often singularly lively and fun.) But they are not a perfect format. There are sometimes inane and insensitive and inappropriate questions. And we ought to examine whether there are tweaks here. This Jonathan Liew column is worth your time.

• The avoid-ability of all this cannot be…well, avoided. Osaka could have handled this differently. Even she had essentially conceded that that dropping this on the eve of the tournament and effectively disparaging the media, was not the ideal process. (A Hall of Famer wonders, not unreasonably, she didn’t just quietly fail to attend the postmatch conference the day of her defeat, rather than make this pre-emptive strike.) After Osaka won her first match and accommodated an on-court interview request, the tournament did not need to escalate matters.

Naomi Osaka's sister says clay-court criticism prompted media boycott: 'Her confidence was completely shattered'

  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.

• A former player texted me: “Hope she’s ok. Pandemic I think hurt young people even more .... maybe contributing factor?” It’s funny I hadn’t before seen the pandemic referenced.

• A player has an issue with a league policy? In other sports there is a union to provide advocacy and dialogue. In the free-for-all that is tennis, the tournament’s reps come to a player’s practice and try to negotiate with her there (that actually happened over the weekend.) Novak Djokovic was on to something.

• The one constituent that distinguished itself: the players. They expressed empathy for Osaka, without buying her premise or taking an easy opportunity to media-bash. Many—not least Nadal—framed the press conference as a win-win and some (Medvedev for one) even admitted to enjoying them.

• That the FFT held a “press conference” last night without taking follow-ups…that is next-level irony, even by tennis’ high standards.

• Social media is a toxic kiddie pool.

• Wrapped around the Osaka unpleasantness on Monday? Iga Swiatek played her best friend and the two dissected the match before walking off the court. Roger Federer, age 39, won his match, and looked a lot like Roger Federer. Serena Williams, age 39, won her match, and looked a lot like Serena Williams. Players conceded points in the spirit of fair play. Sofia Kenin proved she could win without her omnipresent father. Players engaged pleasantly with the fans and the media. (Here’s Federer, the anti-Popovich—note this is on court.) Let’s not dismiss the entire sport.

Naomi Osaka's abrupt end at French Open should start new beginning for tennis in improving partnership with its stars

  Naomi Osaka's abrupt end at French Open should start new beginning for tennis in improving partnership with its stars Osaka had refused to meet with the media during the tournament. 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. Instead she stepped away entirely, first from the tournament and perhaps from the sport for awhile.

• Osaka will take time off, repair and come back. She will not be stigmatized. She will not have to prove herself to an owner. She will return to a tour, a fan base and—dramatically—a society that is growing increasingly aware of, sensitive to and conversant in mental health.

Mailbag

Hi Jon, Hope all is well. When the qualifiers were placed today, couldn't help but chuckle seeing Brooksby-Karatsev after your podcast in which you asked him if/how the Challenger guys are viewing Karatsev's success, etc. Joined him in press and he had no idea... didn't seem bothered by it at all.—Andrew

• Hah thanks. Yes, we asked Brooksby—who was a strong guest, I thought—about Karatsev and whether he was an inspiration for current Challenger guys. For the record, Karatsev won in straights.

Hi Jon; I really feel terrible for Anisimova, she has not been the same since her father/coach passed away. Who’s her coach now? I wish some top coach would take her under his wing because she’s a very talented player. I know that it's a long road in a tennis career.Eric Bukzin, Manorville, Long Island

• Amen. She’s working with Andis Juška. In 2019, she started her major campaign reaching the fourth round of Australia (beating Sabalenka) and the semis in France. Her results haven’t approached that since and she might benefit from some time off, Ash Barty-syle, to reassess. More happily: she doesn’t turn 20 until the U.S. Open.

Serena Williams says she feels for Naomi Osaka, also gets post-match press conference anxiety

  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.

I enjoy watching Musetti. He seems to have great hands and a wonderful future. However, in Lyon he seemed to “mail it in” in the third set against Tsitsipas. Perhaps it's not indicative (he is only 19) but I hope it's not a character weakness. I HATE to see any athlete give up during competition. Your thoughts??Richie G.

• I noticed that, too. But I say cut generous slack here. One real benefit of the veterans: they know how to pace themselves and ration energy in best-of-five matches. One challenge to young players: they are still exploring their limits and their bodies. I suspect that, with a big event coming, Musetti didn’t want to jeopardize anything. And do note that he beat David Goffin in his first match.

Hey Jon: What is actually stopping Kyrgios from making a run at the NBA? He said he loves to play and vibe with teammates last week. It's like what you've always said: he loves team sports and the camaraderie. Lakers can use a sharpshooter. Is this a pipe dream or can this actually happen? It's one thing to shoot 40-footers in Bondi Beach, it's completely another when it's game seven in the conference finals, and you are triple covered. Deepak, New York

• Let’s be clear. Kyrgios loves basketball (who doesn’t) and can hold his own in a pick-up game. But he wouldn’t have started at my high school. Long as you brought him up, can we just start the 30 for 30 now? He’s outside the top 50, hasn’t played since Australia and, by his own admission, is not in optimal shape. I feel like we’re in a new phase. Initially, it was “he’s so talented; wait till he gets it together.” Then it was, “He can beat anyone on a given day. Too bad he’s not more professional.” Now, as he is closer to 30 than 20, it’s: “Can he salvage this thing?”

Venus Williams: Tennis Media Will 'Never Light a Candle to Me'

  Venus Williams: Tennis Media Will 'Never Light a Candle to Me' Venus Williams provided quite the honest answer when asked how she deals with the tennis press. © Provided by Sports Illustrated Naomi Osaka's decision to withdraw from the French Open has opened up a conversation regarding the relationship between tennis players and the press, and Osaka received support from Venus Williams on Tuesday. Williams detailed how she handles scrutiny from the media following a first-round loss to Ekaterina Alexandrova, noting that each member of the media will "never light a candle to me.

In the always anticipated and enjoyable seeding report for the French Open, you wrote under Aryna Sabalenka: "Potential story to follow; will events in Belarus—and potential calls for her to take a stand—provide a distraction.”

Originally I was going to ask why any tennis player needs to take a stand and does the media and press only ask for one when it is a topic of interest to them—in this case a journalist colleague being kidnapped. None of the Chinese players have been asked to take a stand on the Xinjiang internment camps of the Uyghurs nor has Ons Jabeur been grilled on Tunisia'a penal code related to homosexuality.

But in light of Naomi Osaka's withdrawal related to psychiatric health concerns related to depression and anxiety focused on the press conferences, is an examination of the expectations and questioning of the press need a review?

Players with a median age in early twenties have spent most of their lives focused on training for a sport often to the deficit of other aspects of development. Should the press and the players focus more on the tennis and respect players' limitations as far as taking stands on areas where they wish to remain silent for any number of reason? Ken Wells, Newport, Rhode Island

• Good question. I would submit that it’s fair game. If the last year has taught us anything it’s that athletes have opinions and views and platform and often WANT to be asked about (and heard on) matters others than sports. Working on the assumption athletes are just that—athlete who have spent their life training and have no other interest/expertise—takes us to a bad place.

Let’s be clear: the athlete is under zero obligation to answer these questions. Or any question for that matter. But asking a player from Belarus if they have comments about what is going on their country right now? Totally legit.

50 Parting Thoughts From the 2021 French Open

  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.

I think a lot of it comes down to phrasing. This is one of my issues with press conferences. The questions are something not professionally rendered. They come off accusatory. They are leading. They don’t give the respondent a chance to answer thoughtfully. But asking athletes if they want to weigh in on matters beyond break points converted and “size up your next opponent” and “tough day at the office, where did it go wrong?”….the more of the better, far as I’m concerned.

Any irony in the French Tennis Federation president not taking questions after reading a statement on Osaka. I always found Osaka not to be ready for the limelight even when she won majors. That being said, are daily press conferences really necessary for top players?@casobserver2013

• They’re not daily. They’re after matches. And any player can be requested.

Hi Jon. An unusual question here. My son is the captain of his high school tennis team. Usually at the end of the season there is a banquet at one of the local clubs. Because of COVID, however, we are limiting crowd size and indoors gatherings, so I am hosting the “banquet” in my back yard for the players only. Can you suggest a typical food item that I can include on the menu for each of the slams? Wimbledon of course would be strawberries and cream. But what about the others?Anna, Longmeadow, Mass.

• Lots of good answers:

Australian Open: vegemite, shrimp on a barbie, Outback steakhouse.

French Open: croissants, pain au chocolat, onion soup, crepes

U.S. Open: lobster rolls, virgin Honey Deuce, hot dogs, chicken tenders dipped in Pepsi,

(We laughed and nodded in resigned agreement with @lemon_swizzle who noted: “LOL . . . if you're feeding teenage boys, go for volume over theme. They won't appreciate it. Order pizzas and a sheet cake from the grocery store, supplement with chips and dip.”

Hey Jon, so awesome to see you guys back on site in France for the Open. Has the “shaking hands with the chair umpire after the match” tradition completely died? A lot of matches I’ve watched recently, the players didn’t even acknowledge the chair umpire at the end. Glad to see the ball kids not handling towels anymore, and I understand precautions given the times we live in, but there’s something to good sportsmanship in tennis in recognizing the chair.David Bloom, Upstate NY

• I’ve seen general recognition and eye contract but miss the handshake as well.

I guess the people at Roland Garros don't read the Mailbag: Women's draw: Iga and Ash on collision course.

"Two defending champions," they say.Srikanth

• If come into a major with a seven-match win streak at aforementioned major, you are defending champ?

ENJOY THE NEXT WEEK OF MATCHES, EVERYONE!

More Tennis Coverage:

What Osaka's French Open Exit Tells Us About Athletes and Media in 2021

Osaka's Withdrawal Puts the Spotlight on Mental HealthOsaka Details Her Battle With Depression

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.

usr: 1
This is interesting!