The hype with which Naomi Osaka herself started before Roland Garros’s debut by saying that she did not want to hold press conferences because critical questions from journalists weren’t good for her mental health has returned like a bounce. The debate spread around the world, with the Grand Slam Commission’s tough stance – a systematic increase in the fine (12,500 euros), possible exclusion of Roland Garros and future Grand Slam tournaments – leaving her with few options and forced to make a decision. And that was cruel.
“I think it is better for the tournament, my teammates and I withdraw,” she wrote on her social media. “So everyone can focus on tennis in Paris again. I never wanted to play the jammer and realized the timing was not perfect and my message could be clearer.” In the end, it turned out that this ad wasn’t directed much against journalists, but had a deeper root cause. “The truth is, I have suffered long periods of depression since USOpen 2018 (when she won her first title after a controversial final against Serena Williams, Editor),” said 23-year-old Osaka. “Everyone who knows me knows that I am an introvert and everyone who has seen me in tournaments knows that I often walk around there with headphones, because something like that helps me with my social fears. And although the press has always been nice to me, I don’t like to speak in public and I regularly experience anxiety attacks Great when I have to speak to the media. I felt nervous and scared in Paris and wanted to protect myself by skipping press conferences. “
It is strange that this world star, who works with a large retinue, did not consult in advance whether this earnest message would pass well and was delivered in a timely manner. Grand Slam tournaments are intense, and young girls often experience intense emotional pressure from parents, managers, the press, or fans’ expectations. Worth a discussion, but perhaps not on the eve of Roland Garros. Last year, Osaka made a big impression on USOpen through its commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement. Osaka was widely praised for being funny, witty but at times somewhat mundane. But behind that strong front and three Grand Slam titles was already a dangerous situation. “I will be away from the tour for some time,” said Osaka. “But when the time comes, I want to start a discussion with the tour about how we can make this better for the players, the press and the fans.”