Naomi Osaka says she won't speak to the press at Roland Garros citing mental health

Naomi Osaka says she won’t speak to the press at Roland Garros citing mental health

One of the world’s biggest tennis stars, Naomi Osaka of Japan, said on Wednesday that she would not speak with the media at this year’s French Open due to the damaging consequences of press conferences on the emotional well-being of players.

“I have often felt that people have no respect for the mental health of athletes and that rings true every time I see or attend a press conference,” Osaka, ranked No. 2 in the world, in a post shared on his Instagram account and Twitter accounts when announcing his decision.

“We often sit there and ask questions that have been asked many times before or questions that make us doubt and I just will not submit to people who doubt me,” she added. .

The tennis star said she has watched numerous clips of players collapsing in the press room after losing matches, and asking athletes for questions from reporters in these situations is like “kicking to a person while they are on the ground ”.

The decision has a real impact on the world, as players can be fined up to $ 20,000 for skipping post-match Grand Slam briefings unless they are injured and physically unable to show up, but it is not uncommon for players to take the hit and still jump them after particularly heavy losses.

In her post, Osaka said she hoped the “considerable amount” she expected to be fined would go to a mental health charity.

It is not clear if Osaka will not participate in press conferences at other tournaments.

Osaka’s statement generated more than 7,000 comments on Instagram, including from fellow tennis players.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams of the United States said: “Girl, yeah. Your life is yours! Williams and her sister, tennis legend Serena Williams, have both previously been fined for missing press conferences at major tournaments.

The soft-spoken Osaka has so far enjoyed a largely friendly relationship with the press.

In her post, she said her decision was “nothing personal” against the tournament, adding that she had had “a friendly relationship” with most of the journalists who cover the sport.

But she added: “If organizations think they can just keep saying, ‘hit the press or you’re going to be fined’, and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes who are the centerpiece of their efforts. business, so I just have to laugh. “

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NBC News reached out to the French Tennis Federation, which hosts the French Open, the Women’s Tennis Association and the International Tennis Federation for their comments, as well as Osaka’s long list of sponsors, including Nike and Louis. Vuitton.

The Japanese-Haitian player, who has taken the tennis world by storm since her escape in 2018, has already won four Grand Slam titles at the age of 23. Earlier this month, she was named Sportswoman of the Year by the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards. .

She earned more than $ 55 million last year, a record for a female athlete, according to sports business website Sportico.

Osaka has also used her voice to become a champion for racial equality on and off the pitch. At last year’s US Open, she wore seven face masks, each bearing the name of a victim of racist violence.

The Roland-Garros qualifiers are underway, with the main draw due to start on Sunday.