Naomi Osaka slammed for posing for Vogue cover after slating media for mental health issues
Tennis sensation Naomi Osaka was criticized after she broke her social media silence with a glossy new photoshoot with Vogue Japan during her press boycott.
The 23-year-old Japanese athlete took to social media on Monday, June 21, to share the cover of the fashion magazine alongside a string of glamorous shots that are featured in its August issue, the Daily Mail reported.
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Addressing her millions of followers across various platforms -- including Instagram and Twitter -- the four-time Grand Slam champion wrote, "Hi guys. Popping out to post this Vogue Japan cover, hope you're all doing well and staying safe." Her post garnered praise from several famous figures, including Nicki Minaj, Venus Wiliams, and Saweetie. However, quite a few wondered whether the shoot suggested she was still fulfilling some of her media engagements amid her apparent press blackout.
The former world number one is seen in the luxe shoot, flaunting her toned physique in lavish Louis Vuitton clothes and Nike sportswear, which is one of her major sponsors.
This was the first time Osaka communicated publicly since her decision to not attend press conferences at the French Open. The backlash forced her to pull out of the tournament and head homewards as she revealed her mental health struggles.
"I'm gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans," Osaka wrote in her last tweet on May 31. She returned to her Los Angeles residence at the start of this month, flying back from Paris following just one match at Roland Garros.
May 31, 2021
Officials fined Osaka $15,000 for refusing to appear in front of the media and shirking press duties following her first-round match against 63rd seeded Romanian Patricia Maria Tig. A joint statement by Grand Slam organizers warned she would face "more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions" if she continues her blackout.
Osaka announced she was withdrawing from the tournament five days after her tweet, revealing her struggles with depression and anxiety. "I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris," she said at the time.
However, her decision to pose for the magazine while boycotting the media did not sit well with quite a few Tennis fans. "Oh so did she answer questions?" one Twitter user asked. "Thought she was depressed," another added. "Is this part of her mental health therapy?" a third wondered.
Oh so did she answer questions?— Aditi (@Adril9596) June 21, 2021
Thought she was depressed 🤭— Teresa Doherty (@Teresa48263408) June 22, 2021
Is this part of her mental health therapy???— Cezartennis (@Cezartennis1) June 22, 2021
Some legends of the game also criticized Osaka for neglecting her press duties. Third seed Rafael Nadal said that he sympathized with Osaka, but admitted that media interaction was an essential part of the job. Former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker also slammed the young sensation. He said that stars can't have "half the cake" and that Osaka's career may have been jeopardized. "If she can't cope with the media in Paris, she can't cope with the media at Wimbledon, she can't cope with the media at the US Open."
Meanwhile, women's world number one Ashleigh Barty insisted that press conferences couldn't be skipped. "We know what we sign up for as professional tennis players," the Australian star athlete said on Friday, June 18. "I can't really comment on what Naomi is feeling or her decisions she makes. At times press conferences are hard, of course, but it's also not something that bothers me. I've never had problems answering questions or being completely honest with you guys. It's not something that's ever fazed me too much."