Osaka finds support after decision to skip press at French Open

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Naomi Osaka received support from Iga Swiatek’s sports psychologist on Thursday after the four-time major winner said she will not attend press conferences at this year’s French Open as the nature of the questions puts an undue burden on players’ mental health.

According to the Grand Slam rule book, players can be fined up to $20,000 for skipping a media conference but Osaka was ready to accept any sanction.

Osaka hoped the “considerable amount” that she expected to forfeit would go towards a mental health charity.

“I’m writing this to say I’m not going to do any press during Roland Garros,” the Japanese world number two, who lives in the United States, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

“I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health, and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.

“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.”

Expecting players to answer questions after losses amounted to “kicking a person while they’re down”, Osaka added.

Sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz, who works with French Open winner Swiatek and travels with the teenaged Pole’s team, said she appreciated Osaka’s concern about facing questions after a defeat.

“I absolutely understand the decision in terms of when a player loses a match, and tennis is such a specific sport because at the end of the tournament only one person does not lose,” she told Reuters on Thursday.

“It’s tough emotionally to cope with it; it is one of the challenges that tennis brings. It’s sometimes overwhelming.”


The last thing Abramowicz wants to let Swiatek do when she loses a match is to face the media immediately after.

Mental health problems have been a point of discussion since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when the tours started operating in front of empty stands after a five-month shutdown.

Earlier this year, Frenchman Benoit Paire said he was “mentally exhausted” by life on the tour amid the COVID-19 restrictions and found no joy in playing without the fans.

Paire, a former top-20 player, said he did not even train between tournaments anymore.

Osaka, 23, made headlines this week when sports business website Sportico reported she had earned $55.2 million over the past 12 months, a record haul for a female athlete.

She has in the past used her platform and considerable press attention to highlight issues of police violence and racial inequality.

The claycourt Grand Slam, which runs from Sunday to June 13, has never been a happy hunting ground for Osaka, who skipped the event last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She has not gone past the third round in her four appearances.

World governing body International Tennis Federation and the WTA Tour did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The French tennis federation FFT, which organises the major, told Reuters it would make “no comment for now”.

“As a sponsor, we respect the feelings and will of the athletes,” Japanese instant noodle-maker Nissin, one of Osaka’s top sponsors, said in a statement sent to Reuters.

“However, we are not in a position to comment on their individual opinions and actions, so we will refrain from doing so.”

A spokeswoman for Japanese car manufacturer Nissan Motor said it had no comment while an All Nippon Airways spokesman declined to comment. Osaka’s other sponsors did not respond to requests for comment.

Former world number one Osaka said the decision was “nothing personal” against the tournament and noted she had a friendly relationship with many of the tour’s journalists. She hoped tournaments would reconsider their approach.

She later tweeted a video of former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch famously repeating the line “I’m just here so I won’t get fined”, at a pre-Super Bowl news conference in 2015.