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Naomi Osaka won’t fulfil media obligations at French...

Sport

TENNIS

Naomi Osaka won’t fulfil media obligations at French Open over mental health concerns

Naomi Osaka wears a mask with the name Ahmaud Arbery stencilled on it during the 2020 US Open. Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African-American, had been fatally shot while jogging in Glynn County, Georgia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The four-times Grand Slam champion says she will not take questions from the press at the 2021 French Open because the nature of news conferences puts an undue burden on players’ mental health.

“I’m writing this to say I’m not going to do any press during Roland Garros,” the Japanese player wrote on Twitter.

“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.”

Expecting players to answer questions after losses amounted to “kicking a person while they’re down”, Osaka added.

The world number two said the decision was “nothing personal” against the tournament or a couple of journalists with whom she said she has a friendly relationship, adding that she hoped tournaments would reconsider their approach.

Many tennis tournaments require players to speak to the media after each match or pay a fine.

American Christian Harrison was fined $3,000 (about R42,000) 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 former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch famously repeating the line “I’m just here so I won’t get fined”, at a pre-Super Bowl press conference in 2015.

Osaka has in the past used her platform and considerable press attention to highlight issues of police violence and racial inequality.

The 23-year-old made headlines this week when sports business website Sportico reported she had earned $55.2-million over the past 12 months, a record haul for a female athlete.

French Open qualifiers are under way and the tournament is due to end on 13 June. DM/REUTERS

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