'I used to dread interviewing Naomi Osaka,' Annabel Croft reveals to LBC

1 June 2021, 12:31

By Fiona Jones

Former British number one Annabel Croft reveals she "used to dread" interviewing Naomi Osaka, as the young tennis star quits the French Open.

The world number two Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the French Open and plans to "take some time away from the court" amid controversy over her decision not to speak to the media.

The 23 year old was fined around £10,000 for refusing to "fulfil her media commitments" after she released a statement announcing her withdrawal from interviews, citing mental health reasons.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, broadcaster and former British number one tennis player Annabel Croft said, "I remember her when she first burst on the scene, in fact I used to dread interviewing her because she was so shy.

"She could hardly string two words together, she couldn't lift her head, and she'd give you an absolutely disastrous interview in terms of what you needed for press.

"I think she is a bit of an introvert but having said that she's gone on to win four Grand Slam titles, she's amassed almost $20 million in prize money and much more than that off court.

"She has become one of the most engaging, most fun, most quirky, brilliant interviews in those press conferences and I felt she was really starting to come to terms with the press. I think everyone's a bit surprised and taken aback by what we didn't understand behind the scenes."

Ms Croft continued that former world number one Billie-Jean King "fought so hard in the seventies" to get women's tennis on the map and encouraged young players to take opportunities so the media could grow the sport: "This has put a bit of a full stop.

"[The sport] crying out for more air time, more media, more interviews, more column inches."

Annabel Croft confirmed that when a tennis player signs up for the tour they sign up for the "great enormous prize money" and that whether you win or lose you will fulfil press commitments.

She said that just watching any sports player and not hearing from them would result in coverage being "a little bit dull."

She said, "[Naomi] needs to be helped along and in terms of being able to do these interviews, and not to feel like the press and the media are her enemy.

"You can't have a situation where no one speaks to the press or you won't have a tour."

Rolland Garros stated: "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."