Will US Open ban Naomi Osaka? Tennis star boycotts media at French Open citing mental health, fined $15K
If Naomi Osaka continues to refuse to participate in media duties, she could be barred from the French Open and possibly Wimbledon. In an unusually uncompromising and forthright move, a joint statement from the four Grand Slam tournaments has warned the US and Australian Open champion that her current stance could risk more than just fines. Osaka, the world No. 2, was fined an initial $15,000 for skipping a mandatory news conference before or after her first-round victory at Roland-Garros on May 29.
This came after Osaka, who is one of the highest-paid tennis players, stated that she would no longer cooperate with interview requests because she believes they are harmful to her mental health. She went on to say that she would face the repeat fines, which she said would be easy to swallow for someone who earned nearly $57M (£40M) last year, mostly from Japanese and global sponsors. Earlier in 2018, US Open champion Osaka shared the emotional turmoil she went through winning the grand slam under the controversial circumstances revolving around it.
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On Sunday night, however, the four Grand Slams banded together to effectively call her bluff, threatening to boot her out of the year's most important tournaments while also putting a dent in her bank account.
Will US Open ban Naomi Osaka?
Osaka could be kicked out of the French Open if she continues to refuse to speak to the media. Wimbledon was one of the signatories to a statement that made it clear that they are willing to escalate the matter to the 'Major Offence' category, which carries the risk of outright disqualification. The statement read: "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."
"Following the lack of engagement by Naomi Osaka, the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open jointly wrote to her to check on her well-being and offer support, underline their commitment to all athletes' well-being and suggest dialogue on the issues. She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players," it said.
"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. As a sport, there is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation, if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honour their commitments," it added.
"Anger is a lack of understanding. Change makes people uncomfortable," Osaka tweeted in response. Banishment from the Grand Slams would almost certainly have a negative impact on Osaka's endorsements. Most contracts include a clause stating that the player will compete in the sport's most popular events.
On Sunday, May 30, Osaka's first-round match was scheduled for 11 am, hardly the time most stars would prefer to compete. She won 6-4, 7-6 against Romanian Patricia Maria Tig, who was relatively unheralded at the time. Not only the game's authorities but also other players appear to have little sympathy for her, given the fact that interviews are an integral part of the pro game's ecosystem.
"I really didn't get it," double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova said, about Osaka's stance. Of the experience of fielding questions about her trauma after being stabbed in late 2016 by an intruder in her apartment, she added: "It was very difficult, to be honest. On the other hand, I was kind of proud afterwards that I had done it. I thought it would be probably just once to talk about it, but of course I did it many times afterwards. With time it's much better."