23-year-old tennis star Naomi Osaka has announced on social media that she will not participate in the mandatory press conferences after matches during the Grand Prix tennis tournament Roland Garros.
Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka announced Wednesday that she will not answer press questions during Roland Garros. The tennis tournament, also known as the French Open, takes place in Paris and runs from Sunday 30 May to Sunday 13 June.
Osaka believes that press conferences are an unnecessary burden on players’ mental health. “I often felt like people don’t think about the mental health of athletes, and this is especially the case when I see or participate in a press conference,” said The World’s Second Man. We are often asked questions, or questions raise suspicion [aan ons eigen kunnen, red.] I will not subject myself to people who doubt me.
Salt in the wound
Osaka says the decision was “ not personal ” against the tournament or the journalists she said had established a friendly relationship with them. Above all, it hopes the tournaments will rethink their approach. For the Japanese, expecting players who have just lost speaking to the press means adding more salt to the wound.
The French Open is held on gravel, and it is a space where Osaka does not play its best matches. The world number two is not expected to win this tournament and may exit relatively early. The third round did not go beyond Paris.
Tennis players who do not participate in press conferences during the tournament face fines, which is something the tennis star takes on his side. “I hope the large amount that will be fined for this will go to a mental health NGO.” Anyway, she can afford it: Earlier this week, sports company Sportico reported that Osaka made about $ 55.2 million in the past 12 months. This drops to around 45.2 million euros, a record for mathematics.
Incidentally, the awarding of such fines is not limited to Roland Garros: in many tennis tournaments, players are required to attend a press conference after each match when a journalist requests their attendance, whether they win or lose. If they don’t, the fines are a few thousand dollars. In January, American player Christian Harrison was fined $ 3,000 (about $ 2,500) for refusing to participate in a mandatory interview at the Delray Beach Open amid a debate over wearing a face mask.
In 2015, Venus Williams was fined $ 3,000 when she skipped the press conference that followed after losing to Roland Garros. In 2010, she and her sister Serena were both fined $ 4,000 (around € 3,300) for canceling a press conference in Wimbledon.
Post-match press conferences are seen as a way for tennis players to promote their sport. So some see it as an obligation for athletes, whether or not they have a good match. Osaka, which already enjoys a lot of press attention anyway, sees things differently.
This isn’t the first time the tennis influential star has used her platform to highlight specific issues. I’ve done this before because of police brutality and racism. At the US Open last year, she wore face masks with the names of several victims of racial injustice, including George Floyd.
Other players may follow suit, but that is not the case at this time. Roland Garros herself has not yet responded to the advertisement.