Naomi Osaka’s sister apologises after defence of French Open media boycott

Osaka has decided to boycott her media duties (Picture: Corbis via Getty)

Naomi Osaka has received a public apology from her sister after ‘making the situation worse’ when trying to explain her media boycott at the French Open.

Osaka, the world No. 2 from Japan, has courted controversy during the clay-court Grand Slam after refusing to face the press at Roland Garros, citing mental health issues as the reason behind her media silence.

After skipping her media duties, Osaka – who beat Patricia Maria Tig 6-4 7-6 (7-4) in her opening match – was slapped with a £10,570 fine by the Grand Slam board and was warned she could be booted out of the tournament.

Shortly after being issued the fine, Osaka wrote on Twitter: ‘anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable.’

Her sister, Mari, attempted to explain the situation on Reddit, only to backtrack shortly afterwards.

‘Naomi mentioned to me before the tournament that a family member had come up to her and remarked that she’s bad at clay. At every press conference she’s told she’s has a bad record on clay,’ Mari wrote in her original post. 

‘When she lost in Rome r1 she was not OK mentally. Her confidence was completely shattered and I think that everyone’s remarks and opinions have gotten to her head and she herself believed that she was bad on clay.

Statement from Grand Slam tournaments regarding Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka announced last Wednesday on social media that she would not participate in the mandatory media interviews at Roland-Garros 2021.

Following this announcement, the Roland-Garros teams asked her to reconsider her position and tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue and what might be done to address it on site.

Following the lack of engagement by Naomi Osaka, the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open jointly wrote to her to check on her well-being and offer support, underline their commitment to all athletes’ well-being and suggest dialog on the issues. She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players.

Naomi Osaka today chose not to honour her contractual media obligations. The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the Code of Conduct.

The mental health of players competing in our tournaments and on the Tours is of the utmost importance to the Grand Slams.

We individually and collectively have significant resources dedicated to player well-being. In order to continue to improve however, we need engagement from the players to understand their perspective and find ways to improve their experiences. Every year we seek to deliver better experiences to our fans, our players and our people, and we have a long and successful track record in achievement on this count.

A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players 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. These interactions allow both the players and the media to share their perspective and for the players to tell their story. The facilitation of media to a broad array of channels, both traditional and digital, is a major contributor to the development and growth of our sport and the fan base of individual players.

We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences. As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament (Code of Conduct article III T.) and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions (Code of Conduct article IV A.3.).

We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement. As a sport there is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honour their commitments.

Finally, all Grand Slams remain committed to continually reviewing and discussing opportunities, together with the Tours and the players, to improve every aspect of the player experience, including with the media. But we consider this is only ever achieved through respectful and constructive discussions.

On behalf of:

Jayne Hrdlicka, Tennis Australia Chair & President

Gilles Moretton, FFT President

Ian Hewitt, AELTC Chairman

Mike McNulty, USTA Chairman of the Board & President

‘This isn’t true and she knows that in order to do well and have a shot at winning Roland Garros she will have to believe that she can. That’s the first step any athlete needs to do, believe in themselves.

‘So her solution was to block everything out. No talking to people who is (sic) going to put doubt in her mind. She’s protecting her mind hence why it’s called mental health.

So many people are picky on this term thinking you need to have depression or have some sort of disorder to be able to use the term mental health.

‘I don’t know what she is going to do in the future when the tournament pushes back and threatens to default her but I fully support my sister’s actions because she’s just trying to do what’s best for her. Tennis players don’t get paid to do press conferences. They only get paid when they win matches.’

However, after a backlash in response to her statement, Mari Osaka deleted the post and apologised to her sister.

‘OK so I f***** up. My words are coming across so horribly to a lot of people who think taking care of mental health is strategic,’ Mari wrote.

‘I didn’t emphasise the fact that Naomi is dealing with a ton of s*** and honestly fighting for the care of mental health in my post so now a lot of people are taking it as “She doesn’t want to hear criticism”.

‘I’m sorry Naomi I probably made the situation worse.’

Billie Jean King, the six-time Wimbledon champion, gave her take on social media, admitting she was torn.

Mari Osaka defended her sister (Picture: Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty)

‘I fully admire and respect what Naomi is doing with her platform, so I am a little torn as I try to learn from both sides of the situation,’ King wrote on Twitter.

‘While it’s important that everyone has the right to speak their truth, I have always believed that as professional athletes we have a responsibility to make ourselves available to the media.

‘In our day, without the press, nobody would have known who we are or what we thought. There is no question they helped build and grow our sport to what it is today.’

Others have been less sympathetic in reply.

Piers Morgan wrote: ‘Get over yourself. Playing the mental health card to avoid legitimate media scrutiny is pathetic.’

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