WTA Open to Dialogue with Naomi Osaka over French Open Press Boycott

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 28, 2021

Naomi Osaka of Japan returns the ball to Jessica Pegula of the United States during their match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Osaka lost against Pegula 7-6, 6-2. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

The WTA released a statement Friday in which it expressed a willingness to have a discussion with Naomi Osaka regarding her plan to not address the media during the French Open.

According to Reuters (h/t ESPN), the WTA wrote the following in the statement:

"Mental health is of the utmost importance to the WTA and for that matter, every individual person. We have a team of professionals and a support system in place that look after our athletes' mental and emotional health and well-being.

"The WTA welcomes a dialogue with Naomi (and all players) to discuss possible approaches that can help support an athlete as they manage any concerns related to mental health."

Osaka announced Wednesday that she would skip press conferences during the French Open because she believes they adversely impact athletes' mental health and confidence.

Osaka wrote on Instagram:

"I've often felt that people have no regard for athletes' mental health and this rings very 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."

Per Reuters, world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty expressed a different viewpoint: "At times press conference are hard, of course, but it’s also not something that bothers me."

The 23-year-old Osaka is the No. 2 player in the world and perhaps the most popular and recognizable player in women's tennis aside from Serena Williams.

Last year, Osaka usurped Williams as Forbes' highest-paid female athlete in the world, making $37.4 million.

Osaka, who lives in the United States and represents Japan, is a four-time Grand Slam singles champion, having won two Australian Opens and two U.S. Opens.

She is the only women's Grand Slam winner of 2021 thus far, having won the Aussie Open earlier this year, but she will be hoping to improve at the other two major tournaments.

Osaka has never advanced past the third round at the French Open or Wimbledon, and she has never won a tournament in her career on clay or grass.

The French Open gets underway Sunday, with Osaka scheduled to play Romania's Patricia Maria Tig in the first round.