Naomi Osaka: Spotlight on media, authorities & player after French Open withdrawal

Tennis fans around the world were left scratching their heads when the Williams sisters failed to show up for play on day three of a grand slam. Naomi was visibly upset and offered little explanation for her withdrawal from the tournament, other than that she was feeling ill. If you’ve never been a fan of tennis and do not understand the sport’s rules, such an error is not a big deal. It’s when a player has a history of injury, or has been previously penalised for an infraction, that the public draws criticism, and generally becoming more suspicious of the player’s abilities. The US Open is the most notorious grand slam tournament for this reason, with the tournament’s anti-doping rules also fuelling speculation and debate in the past.

A day after Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open, the tennis community is still left with questions over how the 16-year-old felt the day after her withdrawal from the tournament. A day after the tournament it emerged that she told tournament officials that her body was not feeling right, but the reason for the withdrawal, which came a day after she won the women’s singles title at Roland Garros, has yet to be revealed.

After Naomi Osaka was defeated in the second round of the French Open for the second consecutive year, some players suggested she was not fit enough to play the rest of the season. The 22-year-old, who won the prestigious women’s singles title at Flushing Meadows last year, said she was “tired” after playing in all five Grand Slams in 2018.

Naomi Osaka has won four Grand Slam titles word-image-79 When Naomi Osaka won the US Open in 2018, she pulled down her visor to hide her tears. It was her maiden Grand Slam title, she had beaten the great Serena Williams to win it, and she had a bright future ahead. Except that the victory had come in unusual and traumatic fashion, with boos and controversy surrounding Williams’ infamous outburst at the umpire. And we now know that this title also marked the start of the “long bouts of depression” that have led to Osaka pulling out of the French Open in a move that has sent shockwaves through the sport and raised the prospect of some soul-searching for the authorities and media. Roland Garros is now without one of the sport’s biggest stars, and despite Osaka’s desire to not “be a distraction” she and the issues she raises are firmly in the spotlight.

Did the authorities handle things well?

Osaka received a lot of support from fellow players and athletes over her decision to boycott news conferences at Roland Garros. And there was criticism of the sport’s governing bodies’ strongly-worded statement on Sunday, which threatened her with expulsion from the French Open and future Grand Slams over what she said was a decision based on seeking to protect her mental health. American basketball player Stephen Curry was critical of the authorities, saying the “powers that be don’t protect their own”, while former British number one Laura Robson also questioned whether the matter could have been dealt with differently. “I’m sure a lot of people are disappointed with how the statement was handled yesterday from the Grand Slams and how strong it was,” Robson said on Radio 5 Live. “Maybe if they had not let it escalate to this point then we wouldn’t be here.” In a statement after Osaka’s withdrawal, French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton said major tennis bodies were committed to athletes’ wellbeing and improving their tournament experience, including their interaction with the media. Osaka said “the rules are quite outdated in parts” and that she wants to discuss with the Tour ways of making things better.

Did Osaka herself handle things well?

Osaka’s announcement on 27 May that she would not be taking part in news conferences took a lot of people by surprise. Not least the tournament organisers, who said her decision was “not acceptable”, and critics who branded it “diva behaviour”external-link and said she was gaining an “unfair advantageexternal-link” by not fulfilling her media commitments. Former British player Naomi Cavaday told Radio 5 Live that if Osaka had communicated her concerns with tournament organisers in a different way they may have come up with a mutually agreeable solution. “It’s awful to hear she has been struggling so much since she became a Grand Slam champion. But in this game you can’t just decide what you’re doing then and there with zero communication with businesses and organisations, and especially when you sign contracts to do things,” she said. “If the issue had been raised in a more professional, direct manner rather than it just being taken to social media and the decision taken out of their hands, I do think there would have been discussions at least around how it could be easier.” Osaka herself said her “timing was not ideal and her “message could have been clearer”. Cavaday said there are “processes in place that if you are struggling with your mental health you can communicate that and try to come to some sort of short-term resolution and then look a little more longer term”. “But I also recognise, as someone who has struggled myself, how difficult it is to initiate that conversation in the first place,” she added.

And what about the media?

tennis correspondent Russell Fuller It is a sobering thought that Naomi Osaka has been suffering long bouts of depression ever since winning her first Grand Slam in New York at the age of 20. It is also disconcerting to acknowledge she would probably still be competing in the French Open if it wasn’t for the obligatory media commitments that come with it. Many of us will reflect on our choice of language now we are in possession of more detail, and the four Grand Slams must also question their decision to raise the temperature so significantly by threatening Osaka with expulsion from the event. It may have been done out of fairness to other players – and after an unsuccessful attempt to contact Osaka – but it was a stance which ultimately robbed the tournament of one of its biggest draws. Many people were stung by Osaka’s initial post. It was unfair on the WTA Tour, which invests a lot of time in preparing athletes for the many demands of professional sport, and also on large parts of the media who are able to treat difficult interviews with sensitivity. But it was written under duress, at a time Osaka was feeling vulnerable and anxious, and so those words should not be held against her. Media interaction with players should remain an integral part of the sport, but after this painful episode the hope must be that the experience is enhanced for all concerned.

Will mental health be talked about more?

From quirky news conferences with Pokemon references to uneasy acceptance speeches, Osaka has endeared herself to both fans and the media over the years. The softly spoken Japanese player has previously described herself as the “most awkward” person in tennis, but she has also become one of its most powerful voices with her activism. But the public did not know she had been “having a hard time coping” with bouts of depression. British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson said she hoped there would now be more conversations around depression in sport. “She’s so brave to speak out and protect her wellbeing,” she wrote. “Mental health, especially in sport, is such a risky topic to be open about. Hopefully change will come off the back of her withdrawal and it will open up conversations around depression in sport to break down the stigma.” Serena Williams was asked in her news conference on Monday if she felt enough is done by the WTA and Grand Slams to help tennis players’ mental health off the court. “I feel like there is a lot of articles and stuff that they put out,” she said. “I think you really have to step forward and make an effort, just as in anything. You have to be able to make an effort and say, I need help with A, B, C and D, and talk to someone. “I think that’s so important to have a sounding board, whether it’s someone at the WTA or whether it’s someone in your life. Maybe it’s someone that you just talk to on a weekly basis.” Former world number one Billie Jean King tweeted her support:

When will Osaka be back on court?

In her statement, Osaka did not put a timeframe on her return, saying she was going to “take some time away from the court now”. Robson thinks she may not be back in time for Wimbledon, which starts in four weeks. “From her statement it is unclear when she does plan to come back,” she told Radio 5 Live. “I think it would be a quick turnaround for her to come back for Wimbledon and be thrown in the deep end at a Grand Slam, especially Wimbledon.” word-image-80 word-image-81Naomi Osaka, the 20-year-old tennis star who hasn’t won a single match in the last two months, has withdrawn from the French Open, citing a health issue. In an Instagram post, the Japanese star said she is feeling “a little discomfort” in her knee that has been bothering her for a few weeks.. Read more about naomi tennis player and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did Naomi withdraw from the French Open?

The French Open, the second most prestigious tournament in tennis after the US Open, is underway in Paris and Naomi Osaka is not in attendance. Osaka withdrew from the tournament last Tuesday, citing “medical reasons” after she was seen with a medical bandage on her wrist. The world number two was expected to challenge for the title in Paris after coming back from a significant injury. The French Open has ended. The tournament has always been a special place for me, but I never expected to play in it, let alone win it. I was very happy to have the chance to play in front of home fans at Roland Garros this year. The atmosphere was incredible and I was proud to be a part of it.

What happened to Naomi Osaka?

Tennis is a sport with its fair share of drama and controversy, and that drama has come to a head again. Former world number one Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from next week’s French Open after she was withdrawn from a match during the women’s quarterfinals at Wimbledon in June. In a strongly worded statement in which she denied being pressured by anyone, Osaka said the French Open “was the last tournament of the season to play for the major prizes”. Naomi Osaka was the main topic of conversation at this year’s French Open. She won the girls’ singles title, becoming the first Japanese player to do so in the Open Era, and received a wild card into the main draw. She then upset top-ranked Simona Halep in the first round, setting the stage for the rest of the tournament, including her remarkable romp to the title and the subsequent controversy she caused after her loss.

What did Naomi Osaka do?

A week ago, Naomi Osaka was one of the brightest stars in tennis, a 17-year-old rising star who had won the first two Grand Slam tournaments on her way to the top of the WTA rankings. She was the youngest player in U.S. Open history to reach the semifinals, and her future looked limitless. The French Open got underway Friday, and when it was over, Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka was the star of the show. What made her so special? What did she do that caused so much attention?

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