Naomi Osaka has said she will not take questions from the press at this year’s French Open, saying the nature of news conferences puts an unfair burden on players’ mental health.
“I’m writing this to say I’m not going to do any press during Roland Garros,” the four-times grand slam champion tweeted 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,” the 23-year-old added.
The world No 2 said the decision was “nothing personal” against the tournament or journalists she is friendly with and that she hoped tournaments would reconsider their approach. Expecting players to answer questions after losses amounted to “kicking a person while they’re down”, Osaka added.
Many tennis tournaments require players to speak to the media after each match or pay a fine. American player Christian Harrison was fined $3,000 by the ATP after refusing to take part in a mandatory on-court interview at the Delray Beach Open in January amid a dispute over mask wearing.
Osaka said she hoped the “considerable amount” that she expects to be fined will go towards a mental health charity. She later tweeted a video of the former Seattle Seahawks running back, Marshawn Lynch, famously repeating the line “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” at a press conference in 2015.
The Japanese player has in the past used her platform to highlight issues of police violence and racial inequality. At last year’s US Open, she wore masks bearing the names of several victims of racial injustice, including George Floyd.
Osaka won that event and the 2021 Australian Open having missed last year’s delayed French Open to recover from a hamstring problem. She is yet to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros, exiting in the third round on three occasions.