Naomi Osaka fined and threatened with French Open expulsion over media boycott

30 May 2021, 19:18

Naomi Osaka is refusing to speak with the media due to concerns over mental health
Naomi Osaka is refusing to speak with the media due to concerns over mental health. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

World tennis number two Naomi Osaka has been fined and threatened with expulsion from the French Open if she continues her refusal to speak with the media.

The Japanese tennis star was handed a $15,000 (£10,500) fine for boycotting a press conference after her first-round victory at Roland-Garros on Sunday.

Earlier this week, she revealed she would not be meeting with the media in Paris due to concerns over mental health.

Prior to the grand slam, Osaka tweeted that media briefings can feel like "kicking a person while they are down".

She said she has "often felt that people have no regard" for the mental health of athletes, especially during press conferences.

"I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me", the 23-year-old added as she does "not understand the reasoning behind it".

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"I've watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room... I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they're down," the four-time grand slam winner said.

However on Sunday, the board of grand slam tennis tournaments issued a statement threatening to throw Osaka out of the tournament if she does not reconsider.

"The Roland-Garros teams asked her to reconsider her position and tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue and what might be done to address it on site," it read.

The statement continued: "The mental health of players competing in our tournaments and on the tours is of the utmost importance to the grand slams.

"We, individually and collectively, have significant resources dedicated to player well-being."

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Naomi Osaka could be thrown out of the French Open if she continues her media boycott
Naomi Osaka could be thrown out of the French Open if she continues her media boycott. Picture: PA

The board added that it needs players to engage with it if members are to understand their perspective and find ways to improve their experiences.

It also suggested she could be suspended from future grand slams if she continues her boycott.

"A core element of the grand slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves," the statement said.

"We have advised Naomi Osaka that, should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further code of conduct infringement consequences.

"As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future grand slam suspensions."