Naomi Osaka’s decision to boycott press conferences at this year’s French Open has drawn a mixed reaction from her fellow professionals, including Australian ace Ash Barty who says says it comes with the territory.
Osaka’s declaration that she won’t participate in news conferences during the French Open was a topic for discussion on a pre-grand slam media day conducted via video conference.
The Japanese star has cited the effects of media conferences on mental health as her reason for announcing she’ll boycott them.
“In my opinion, press is kind of part of the job,” said Barty, the 2019 French Open champion.
“We know what we sign up for as professional tennis players. … At times, press conference are hard, of course, but it’s also not something that bothers me. …
“For me, personally, it doesn’t keep me up at night what I say and hear or what you guys ask me. So I try and make it a little bit lighter and have a bit of fun with you guys,”
“For me, it’s a little bit different, but I can’t comment on (Osaka) personally for what she’s going through,” Barty said, “so I suppose you’ll have to ask her that next time you chat to her.”
Who knows when that will be?
Preparing to bid for a 14th men’s French Open title, Rafael Nadal also saw media conferences as part of the job and felt players stood to gain from them.
“We as sports people … we need to be ready to accept the questions and to try to produce an answer, no?
“Without the press … probably we will not be the athletes that we are today,” Nadal said. “We (aren’t) going to have the recognition that we have around the world, and we will not be that popular, no?”
World No.2 Daniil Medvedev echoed a common sentiment.
“I understand why she (Osaka) does it. I respect her opinion,” he said. “Me, I have no problems” dealing with journalists”.
“I try always to come to a press conference, bad mood or good mood. And I feel like, even sometimes in the bad mood, I can be in a better mood after talking to you guys.”
At Grand Slam tournaments, players are subject to fines of up to $US20,000 for skipping news conferences if they are asked to speak and do not.
That’s not much of a disincentive for Osaka, the world’s highest-earning female athlete, who framed it as a mental health issue and said she hopes whatever comes out of her prize money would be donated to a charity in that area.
“We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me,”
.On Friday, the WTA Tour reminded Osaka of her “responsibility” to interact with reporters.
A statement attributed to the tour read in part: “The WTA welcomes a dialogue with Naomi (and all players) to discuss possible approaches that can help support an athlete as they manage any concerns related to mental health, while also allowing us to deliver upon our responsibilities to the fans and public.
“Professional athletes have a responsibility to their sport and their fans to speak to the media surrounding their competition, allowing them the opportunity to share their perspective and tell their story.”