Tennis and drama are the marriage partners that keep on giving. Just when you think the status quo can become monotonous, drama says ‘just wait, let me drop this bombshell’, and that’s what Naomi Osaka did this week. In a social media post the Japanese superstar stated “I’m not going to do any press during Roland Garros”.
Players over the years have skipped ‘mandatory’ press conferences after usually what is a brutal loss, they are willing to cop the fine, but for a player, especially of Osaka’s hierarchy in the game, this is unheard of. To announce before a Grand Slam has begun that in her words “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”.
The four time Grand Slam Champion has said ‘no mas’ to the press and literally turned her back on the WTA and the French Tennis Federation, which called her ban a “phenomenal mistake”. But with US$37 million in earnings for 2020 alone, she can afford the $20,000 fine for missing a press conference, which of course will grow the longer she stays in the tournament.
Lets face it, losing sucks, it always has. The last thing you want to do is talk about it, almost immediately after you’ve walked off the court. Some players wait in locker rooms for hours, making the press wait, just so they can compose themselves. Others players just want to get it over with and front the press almost immediately.
Either way it’s a necessary evil and an accepted responsibility for the good of the game. Fans want to hear from their favorite players, win or lose. On this Osaka bombshell, Ash Barty said, “we know what we sign up for as professional tennis players” and Rafa Nadal “we need to be ready to accept the questions and try to produce an answer”.
I agree. This is part of the job, yes dumb questions may be asked, yes you may get more annoyed, yes you may even feel worse, but just as after a great victory, when you feel invincible and could talk about it for hours, you have to wear the defeat and talk about that too. It is what you’ve signed up for.
Players can’t shield themselves from everything, with the ecstasy must come the pain; it’s a fact of life. I’ve seen the joy of Serena, Roger, Rafa and Novak as they’ve walked into press conferences with a Grand Slam trophy, so eager to share their thoughts. They’ve also fronted up in crushing losses.
What happens in two weeks if Osaka wins the French Open? Will she regret her own ban? In a rare moment that she’s won a Slam, she can’t formulate those joyous thoughts and feelings and share it with her many fans around the world.
Just as the press can burn you, they can also share your greatest moments. Osaka has put herself above the sport of tennis, which is never a good thing.