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“This is part of the job” : Players react to Naomi Osaka’s media boycott at Roland-Garros

One day after Osaka’s announcement, the topic remained front and centre of Media Day at Roland-Garros

© Panoramic

One day after Naomi Osaka made her stunning announcement that she would not participate in the mandatory press conferences at Roland-Garros, the topic remained the centre of attention during Media Day, two days before the French Grand Slam kicked in.

On Wednesday, Osaka issued a statement that she opined that the mandatory press conferences impact the mental health of players, and that she would be willing to pay the fine for missing the same.

Noted tennis journalist Jon Wertheim also posted an e-mail that Osaka had sent out to the French Tennis Federation in which she gave some more insights into her decision, stating that she wanted to work with the Tours and tennis’ governing bodies on how they could work out a solution that would make the system better.

The WTA Tour issued its own statement on the issue, saying they would welcome a dialogue with Osaka, while also highlighting the responsibilities of players towards the fans and the public.

Nadal, Medvedev, Barty and Swiatek comment on media boycott by Osaka

As expected, most of the players who spoke to the media on Friday were asked about the topic, including 20-time Major winner Rafael Nadal, world No 2 Daniil Medvedev, women’s world No 1 Ashleigh Barty, and defending women’s champion Iga Switaek. Most of them recognized that it was part of the job.

Question. What do you make of Naomi Osaka’s decision not to do any press conferences? Have you ever found doing a press conference difficult from a mental health point of view?

ASHLEIGH BARTY: Oh, I think in my opinion press is kind of part of the job. We know what we sign up for as professional tennis players. I can’t really comment on what Naomi is feeling or her decisions she makes.

At times press conference are hard of course but it’s also not something that bothers me. I’ve never had problems answering questions or being completely honest with you guys. It’s not something that’s ever fazed me too much. And, you know, certainly doesn’t for me personally, 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 her personally for what she’s going through, so I suppose you’ll have to ask her that next time you chat to her.

Question. You were suggesting your life has changed dramatically in the last year or so. Wonder what you think about Naomi Osaka’s comments about press conferences where you’re suddenly such a big star. Do you find the press conference experience difficult and do you think at times it affects your mental health?

IGA SWIATEK: I don’t. I personally feel that this is part of the job. And of course, you know, talking to press after we lost, it’s not the most enjoyable thing to do. But it’s good to find the balance and find the distance to all of that.

You know, as soon as I don’t have so many media obligations, I’m okay with it, but I think it’s just important to have people around you who are going to be that kind of wall that’s gonna separate you from, I don’t know, hate or something.

It’s good to be aware of that, but for sure, you know, sometimes we are in the spotlight and everybody is looking at us. It may be hard, but I feel like with proper kind of support and with distance and, you know, with balance it’s, you know, part of the job.

I feel that media is really important as well because they are giving us, you are giving us a platform to, you know, talk about our lives and our perspective. And it’s also important because not everybody is a professional athlete and not everybody knows what we are dealing with on court. It’s good to speak about that.

We have like two ways to do that: media and social media. It’s good to use both of these platforms and to educate people actually, because, you know, as I said, not everybody knows what’s our perspective, and we actually have a chance to say what’s our perspective and sometimes explain, so I think it’s good.

Question. What do you think about Naomi Osaka’s decision not to do press conferences during the tournament? Have you ever found it difficult to do a press conference after a painful defeat?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, I respect it. I respect her, of course, as an athlete and her personality. I respect her decision.

I don’t know. I mean, we as sports people, I mean, we need to be ready to accept the questions and to try to produce an answer, no?

I understand her, but in the other hand, for me, I mean, without the press, without the people who normally is traveling who are writing the news and achievements that we are having around the world probably we will not be the athletes that we are today. We don’t gonna have the recognition that we have around the world, and we will not be that popular, no?

So I understand her. In the other hand, I have my point of view that the media is a very important part of our sport, too.

Question. I wanted to ask you about Naomi Osaka’s decision to not speak to the press during the French Open. I’m wondering in general what you think of that and also the way she framed it as having to do with athletes’ mental health and whether you have found yourself in difficulty after a loss having to explain and answer our questions about that defeat.

DANIIL MEDVEDEV: Yeah, of course, I mean, first of all, me in life it’s quite easy. I think I respect everybody’s opinion. Doesn’t mean that I have to agree with their opinion. Doesn’t matter if it’s Benoit Paire, Naomi Osaka, or Nick Kyrgios. I want to say, I understand why she does it. I respect her opinion.

Talking about myself, of course I had tough moments in my career, talking about you guys, so media after the matches and before the matches, I don’t think I have experienced problems. Like I don’t see any journalist like trying to go at me, you know.

Of course we know, for example, I don’t win a lot on clay and I can get crazy. But I didn’t have really one journalist, like, saying, Okay, you shouldn’t do this or that, because that’s when I’m going to get crazy, I’m going to say, You cannot tell this to me.

I didn’t experience that. There is a lot of hate of course on social media, especially tennis players, probably because of betting and stuff. So that’s where I feel that’s one of the parts, because I need to be honest, I don’t use my social media as much, especially as soon as I became popular.

But, yeah, again, talking about journalist, me, I have no problems. I try always to come to 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.

Question. The other day Naomi Osaka brought mental wellness into the tennis conversation. I’m wondering, since you did take time off to sort of regroup and give yourself a break, was that important to you? Do you think it had a huge effect on sort of your feelings going into Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and even the US Open?

DOMINIC THIEM: I mean, it’s a tough sport we play with all the traveling, and it’s 11 months a year, probably together with Formula 1, the longest season of any sport. So it is mentally very demanding.

And the same, you can have physical issues, you can also have mental issues, no? The same, you need time to recover a physical injury or issue; the same sometimes, if you are mentally not in your best shape, you also need time to recover for that.

That’s why I think it’s pretty normal from time to time to take some time off and to feel fresher after, and that’s exactly what I did now before I came back in Madrid.

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