Paris: Naomi Osaka dropped out of the French Open after officials threatened to expel her from the second Grand Slam tournament of the season if she continued to refuse to attend news conferences after her matches.
The move was a dramatic turn in the high-stakes standoff between the most powerful officials in tennis and Osaka in the world. Highest paid female athlete And a generational star who has quickly developed into the most magnetic new man in the game.
“I think the best thing now for the tournament, other players and for my own good is that I withdraw so that everyone can focus on tennis going on in Paris. I never wanted to divert attention and I accept that my time was not ideal and my message could have been clear, ”Osaka wrote on Instagram. “More importantly, I will never despise mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered from depression for a long time since the US Open in 2018. And I have faced a lot of difficulty in recovering from it.
Never before has a resulting star exited such an event as big as the French Open Almost every top tennis player has said in recent times Being on a trip is as much a part of a longer itinerary. The clash was in stark contrast to last summer, when tennis officials announced that Osaka would not play his semifinal match after the shooting of Jacob Blake to draw attention to the issue of police violence against black people. Was suspended In Kenosha, Wis.
The suspension of the game, a move that athletes took in several sports as a threat of boycott, allowed Osaka to remain in the tournament. She won her postponed semifinal and then missed the final due to an injury.
Last Wednesday, with little warning to any tennis official, Osaka posted on Instagram and Twitter his decision to relinquish all press obligations during the French Open as the experience hurts players’ mental health, especially when they lose. After that questions have to be answered.
“If organizations think they can say, ‘Press or you’re being fined,’ and continue to ignore the mental health of athletes who are the centerpiece of their cooperation then I have to laugh,” Osaka, A Four The Bar’s Grand Slam tournament winner wrote. She said she would accept any penalties imposed against her for leaving news conferences and requested that the money be donated to a charity dedicated to mental health.
Osaka wrote in her statement on social media on Monday that she “raises huge waves of anxiety” before speaking to the media.
“So here in Paris I was already feeling insecure and anxious so I thought it better to take self-care and leave the press conference,” she wrote. “I had already announced it because I feel that the rules are very old in some parts and I wanted to highlight it. I wrote a personal apology for the tournament and said that I would be very happy to talk with him after the tournament because the slams are intense.
Players are fined up to $ 20,000 for skipping a news conference, although fines have historically been much lower. Nevertheless, tour officials and most players have long believed that news conferences, although uncomfortable at times, are important for the promotion of the game.
After learning of Osaka’s decision, the WTA Tour said on Friday that it welcomed talks with her about mental health but maintained her position on press obligations for the players. WTA said, “Professional athletes have the responsibility of their sport and their fans to talk to the media around their competition, giving them the opportunity to share their perspective and tell their story.”
However, Osaka refused to bow down, even several other key players, including No. 3 male player Rafael Nadal and No. 1 female player Ashley Barty, said they disagreed with Osaka and talking to the news media was part of the task. Was. . Osaka, who earned more than $ 50 million in endorsements and prize money last year, did not attend a media day news conference following her first-round win over Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday in straight sets .
Osaka posed three questions to Fabrice Santoro, an on-court interviewer after the match, and asked the Japanese broadcaster Vovo a few more questions about going off-court, with whom he is under contract.
Within hours she was The French Open tournament referee fined $ 15,000. In addition, four Grand Slam tournament leaders – Australian, French and United States Open and Wimbledon – warned that if she did not continue to fulfill her media obligations, she would risk harsher penalties, including missing the tournament. Does matter.
In a statement signed by Jane Australia Hurdlika, head of Tennis Australia; Gilles Moreton, President of the France Tennis Federation; All England Lawn Tennis Club President Ian Hewitt; And Mike McNulty, president of the United States Tennis Association; Officials said they had arrived in Osaka to start discussions about their well-being and news conferences and their concerns about mental health.
Osaka refused to join him, he said, he had no choice but to pursue significant penalties to help ensure that Osaka did not get an advantage over his competitors.
“We want to underline that there are rules to ensure that all players are treated equally, regardless of their stature, belief or achievement,” the officials 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. “
In her Instagram post, Osaka also wrote, “I will take some time off the court now, but when the time is right, I really want to work with the tour so that we can discuss the ways that we can do things for the players Can make it better, press and fans. “