Paris: Naomi Osaka’s return to the French Open was victorious as she won her first-round match in straight sets over Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday. But Osaka did not remain intact from the first day of the tournament.
He was fined $ 15,000 for refusing to appear at a mandatory postmatch news conference by the French Open tournament referee and warned that if he did not continue to fulfill his media obligations, he would be charged with default from the tournament, including Had to bear the risk of strong penalties.
A statement signed by the leaders of the four Grand Slam tournaments had surprisingly stern warnings: Gilles Moreton, the new president of the French Tennis Federation; Mike McNulty, new head of the United States Tennis Association; Jane Hurdlika, Head of Tennis Australia; And Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club, who runs Wimbledon.
Leaders of Grand Slam events also emphasized that repeated violations by Osaka could lead to “more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions”.
Four-time major singles champion Osaka, one of the game’s biggest stars, now has a choice. Before the French Open began, She announced that she would do “no press” During the tournament, citing the need for journalists to maintain their “mental health” by avoiding repetitive and potentially negative questions.
But if the intention was to limit distractions and find inner peace, she now faces a potentially greater concern in Paris if she continues to stay away from news conferences.
Grand Slam leaders expressed disappointment at Osaka’s lack of engagement with tennis officials, explaining in their statement that the French Open management team “unsuccessfully tried to talk with him to check his well-being, given the nuances of his issue” To understand what might happen and “it must be done to address it on site.”
Grand Slam leaders said they wrote jointly to remind Osaka about their obligations and the consequences of not following the rules. Leaders also emphasized the importance of equal behavior.
“We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure equal treatment of all players, irrespective of their stature, belief or achievement,” the statement said. “As a game there is nothing more important than ensuring that no player has an unfair advantage over another, unfortunately this happens if a player refuses to devote time to participating in media commitments While all others honor their commitments. “
Key players such as Andre Agassi, Venus Williams and Novak Djokovic left the news conferences after the loss and were fined. But this is the first time that a top player has already made it clear that he did not intend to talk to the media during the Grand Slam tournament.
Osaka, which is based in the United States and represents Japan, is World’s highest grossing female athlete, The bulk of his earnings come from sponsorship. He has elevated his profile not only by winning major titles but also by advocating for social justice; He wore masks honoring black victims of violence, including police violence, After matches at last year’s United States Open.
In general, he has a positive relationship with the news media. But in her announcement on social media before the French Open, she said, “I have often felt that people have no respect for the mental health of athletes, and whenever I see a press conference or attend one of the It is very true. “
Osaka, whose decision surprised some members of her self-help team, did not reveal whether she was experiencing a specific mental-health problem, but made it clear Social media posts That she felt strongly about taking a stand. “If organizations feel they can just keep saying, ‘press or you will be fined’ and continue to ignore the mental health of athletes who are the focal point of their cooperation, then I just have to laugh.”
The Grand Slam leadership on Sunday stressed the importance of mental health of the players, saying it was “of utmost importance”.
“We have significant resources dedicated to the well being of the players, individually and collectively,” the statement said. “However, to continue to improve, we need to engage players to understand their point of view and find ways to improve their experiences.”
No major players have yet publicly expressed a desire to follow Osaka’s leadership except at news conferences. The biggest stars of the previous generation – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Serena Williams – have regularly answered questions after each match.
Tennis leaders are concerned that Osaka may set an example at a time when social media has given stars a wider platform to reach the public directly. But Grand Slam leaders insisted that the news media still played an important role.
“A key element of the Grand Slam rules is the players’ responsibility to engage with the media, regardless of the outcome of their match, a responsibility that players take for the game, fans and for themselves,” his statement said. . “These conversations allow both players and media to share their perspectives and tell their story to the players. Media facilitates a wide range of channels, both traditional and digital, for the growth and development of our games and for individual players. Is a major contributor to the fan base. “
Osaka was not silent on Sunday following a 6-4, 7-6 (4) win over the Tigers on the main Philippe Chatier court. He answered three questions from the on-court interviewer, Fabrice Santoro, after the match, and a few more questions when he walked out of court from Japanese broadcaster Wavo, with whom he is under contract.
But she declined all other television requests and dropped the news conference. As the highest paid female athlete, she can bear a fine of $ 15,000 and other fines that may come her way. The big question is whether she wants to jeopardize her participation in the French Open. She has struggled on clay and has not progressed beyond the third round in Paris, but the tournament is one of the pillars of the game.
The next chance to increase or reduce tensions is against Ana Bogdan of Romania in the second round on Wednesday.