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Sister Mari defends Naomi Osaka with message on Reddit, deletes same after criticism

Mari Osaka, a former professional player herself who retired earlier this year, recalls her own experience of breaking down at a press conference

Mari Osaka of Japan returns a shot to Whitney Osuigwe of the United States during their match at Miami Open tennis tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS)

Naomi Osaka’s sister Mari Osaka has thrown some more light behind the four-time Grand Slam champion’s reasons for not talking to the media at Roland-Garros this year.

Last week, Osaka, the No 2 seed in Paris and the world’s highest earning female athlete across all sports, announced that she would not do the mandatory press conferences in Paris during the Roland-Garros fortnight because she did not want to subject herself to “people that doubt me”. In her statement, Osaka also stated that the process of conducting press conferences after a player has lost to “kicking a person while they are down” and that she did not “understand the reasoning behind it.”

On Sunday, Osaka won her first-round match in Paris and was then fined $15,000 for missing the press conferences as well as warned about the possibility of further fines and sanctions including a possible default by the Grand Slam Board.

Naomi’s solution was to block everything out

Mari Osaka, Naomi Osaka’s sister

In the latest development on this story, sister Mari Osaka posted her own statement on the online forum Reddit, which she later deleted. However, by then her statement had already been shared on several other platforms.

While the whole statement can be read below, a couple of the points that stick out include –

  • Prior to Roland-Garros, a family member had made a remark to Naomi about her poor clay-court record (Osaka played 2 clay-court events this year prior to Paris (Madrid and Rome) and combined a 1-2 record in that. She did not play on clay last year due to the pandemic)
  • Mari reveals that Naomi’s loss to American Jessica Pegula in Rome left her shattered and that people’s comments about her poor record on clay have taken a toll on her sister
  • Mari adds that Naomi has been criticized for using the term “mental health” in her statement, saying you do not have to have depression to use the term mental health
  • Mari reveals she fully supports her sister’s actions because Naomi is doing what she thinks is best for her own self
  • Mari, a former player herself who retired in March this year after peaking at No 280, recalled her own experience of breaking down in to tears during her press conference at a WTA event and that media coverage of her breakdown left her embarrassed
  • Mari also added that many other players may be struggling with the same issue that Naomi has taken a stand for

Critics of Osaka’s media boycott were quick to highlight the facts that Osaka’s media boycott may have also been partly influenced by a family member’s remark about her clay-court game. Mari Osaka was also reminded that tennis players have a responsibility “to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves” as the Grand Slam Board had specified in their joint statement yesterday.

Sorry Naomi, I probably made the situation worse

After receiving a lot of criticism for the post, Mari Osaka deleted the original post and shortly posted another – this time shorter message – on Reddit.

In her second message, Mari Osaka stated that her words (in the first post) had come across “so horribly to a lot of people who think taking care of mental health is strategic.”

Mari Osaka went on to add that Naomi had been dealing with “a ton of shit” and that people have taken her media boycott to be considered as her way of avoiding criticism.

Osaka, who scored a 6-4, 7-6 win over Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday, will next play another Romanian – Ana Bogdan for a spot in the third round in Paris.

Osaka has reached the third round in Paris on three occasions – 2016, 2018, 2019. In her only other appearance at Roland-Garros, she lost in the first round in 2017.

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