UPDATE May 31: The controversy surrounding the standoff between Naomi Osaka and the French Open over her refusal to participate in post-match press conferences citing mental health concerns came to a boil today when the tennis superstar announced that she has withdrawn from the tournament.
The move comes a day after Osaka won her opening match and was fined $15K and threatened with disqualification after she followed through on her pre-tournament statement and skipped the mandatory post-match presser. Here is her statement:
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
PREVIOUS May 30: Tennis prodigy Naomi Osaka has been fined $15,000 for missing her first French Open press conference, and has been told that further action may be taken if she continues to shun the media.
Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Naomi Osaka & Amanda Gorman Set As 2021 Met Gala Co-Hosts
Osaka, age 23, said before the tournament that she would refuse any media obligations, as they were detrimental to her mental health. She said post-match inquests were akin to “kicking people when they’re down.”
The World No.2 received her fine on Sunday after refusing to hold a press conference after her opening round 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) victory over Romanian World No.63 Patricia Maria Tig.
“We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations, she would be exposing herself to possible further code of conduct infringement consequences,” said a statement from the four Grand Slam tournaments on Sunday after she was fined. “As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament and the trigger of a major offense investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions.”
French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton previously described Osaka’s attitude toward the media as “a phenomenal error” and “not acceptable.”
The four Grand Slam events – the French Open, Wimbledon, Australian Open and US Open – said they had written to Osaka “to check on her well-being and offer support.”
“She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players,” the statement added. “Naomi Osaka today chose not to honor her contractual media obligations. The Roland Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine.”
Osaka later agreed only to an on-court TV interview following her win on Sunday.
“For me, playing on clay is a work in progress,” she said. “Hopefully, the more I play, the better I will become.”
Later on Sunday she provided a cryptic tweet: “Anger is a lack of understanding. Change makes people uncomfortable.”
UPDATE: The French Open has deleted a post on its Twitter feed which praised players for attending post-match media conferences. It featured pictures of Rafa Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff at their pressers and the caption: “They understood the assignment.”
The tweet had received mixed reaction, drawing criticism for using other players’ likeness to shame Osaka over her decision.
During this year’s US Open, Osaka wore seven different face masks for each round of the annual tournament. The masks, which she started wearing when the tournament began on Aug. 31, named Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castle and Tamir Rice.
Asked by a reporter after that tournament what message she wanted to send, Osaka responded: “Well, what was the message that you got was more the question. I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”
anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 30, 2021
Tennis great Billie Jean King also weighed in on the controversy Sunday.
My thoughts on Naomi Osaka’s decision not to speak with the press at Roland-Garros. pic.twitter.com/BzvHDU3DQY
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) May 30, 2021