Tour, players react to Naomi Osaka: Talking to media part of job

9 Comments

Naomi Osaka’s declaration that she won’t participate in news conferences during the French Open was a natural, if slightly awkward, topic for discussion on a tournament media day already awkward by nature because it was conducted via video conference.

“I understand why she does it. I respect her opinion,” Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2-ranked man in tennis, said at Roland Garros, echoing a common sentiment as a parade of the game’s top players – but not, of course, Osaka – spent time taking questions from reporters in a pre-competition ritual two days before action begins.

“Me, I have no problems” dealing with journalists, Medvedev added as he responded to a query from a journalist in one of the afternoon’s navel-gazing moments. “I try always to come to a press conference, bad mood or good mood. And I feel like, even sometimes in the bad mood, I can be in a better mood after talking to you guys.”

Other players, including 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal and top-ranked woman Ash Barty, and the women’s professional tennis tour said speaking to reporters is a requirement in their line of work.

“Without the press … probably we will not be the athletes that we are today,” Nadal said. “We (aren’t) going to have the recognition that we have around the world, and we will not be that popular, no?”

Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion who is ranked No. 2, said via a Twitter post that she was not going to participate in the standard back-and-forth with the media in Paris – the sort of thing every athlete in every sport does regularly.

“There’s a lot of truth in what she said, but then again, there’s also the expectations and the commitments that come with being a professional athlete, as well, and this is one,” said Johanna Konta, a three-time major semifinalist ranked 20th, “so it’s about finding … the right balance.”

At Grand Slam tournaments, players are subject to fines of up to $20,000 for skipping news conferences if they are asked to speak and do not.

That’s not much of a disincentive for Osaka, the world’s highest-earning female athlete, who framed it as a mental health issue and said she hopes whatever comes out of her prize money would be donated to a charity in that area.

“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,” Osaka wrote.

The WTA Tour reminded Osaka of her “responsibility” to interact with reporters.

A statement emailed to The Associated Press by a WTA spokeswoman and attributed to the tour read in part: “The WTA welcomes a dialogue with Naomi (and all players) to discuss possible approaches that can help support an athlete as they manage any concerns related to mental health, while also allowing us to deliver upon our responsibilities to the fans and public. Professional athletes have a responsibility to their sport and their fans to speak to the media surrounding their competition, allowing them the opportunity to share their perspective and tell their story.”

The French Tennis Federation did not respond to a request for comment.

“In my opinion, press is kind of part of the job. We know what we sign up for as professional tennis players. … At times, press conference are hard, of course, but it’s also not something that bothers me. … For me, personally, doesn’t keep me up at night what I say and hear or what you guys ask me. So I try and make it a little bit lighter and have a bit of fun with you guys,” said Barty, the 2019 French Open champion.

“For me, it’s a little bit different, but I can’t comment on (Osaka) personally for what she’s going through,” Barty said, “so I suppose you’ll have to ask her that next time you chat to her.”

Who knows when that will be?

Tiafoe beats Tsitsipas to give Team World 1st Laver Cup win

Getty Images
0 Comments

LONDON — Frances Tiafoe staved off four match points to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8 and clinch victory in the Laver Cup for Team World over Roger Federer’s Team Europe for the first time.

Tiafoe, a 24-year-old American, performed with the same crunch-time success and wide-smiling showmanship he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open this month.

The victory over 2021 French Open runner-up Tsitsipas allowed the group of 20-somethings on Team World to go up 13-8 in the three-day competition against Team Europe, which in addition to Federer – the 20-time major champion who just retired – featured Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Djokovic had wins in singles and doubles to put Team Europe up 8-4. The last day’s matches were worth three points each, with the first squad to 13 earning the trophy named for Rod Laver, the only man to win the calendar-year Grand Slam twice.

Team World took the lead on the final day at the O2 Arena, thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He defeated 21-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Jack Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Team Europe came into the week having won all four previous editions of the Laver Cup, which was founded by Federer’s management company.

This one served as a celebration of the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career. His final match before retirement came when he and Nadal lost in doubles to Tiafoe and Sock.

Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker. On the first, at 6-5, Tsitsipas netted a forehand to close a 22-stroke exchange. Tiafoe erased the second, at 9-8, with a volley winner. And Tsitsipas sailed backhands long on each of his last two chances to close it out, at 10-9 and 11-10.

Tiafoe went a record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient in the big moments this time. When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end the match – and the competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket, then fell to his back on the court, where his teammates piled on top of him.

Sonego beats Bublik at Moselle Open to win 1st title of 2022

Winston-Salem Open - Day 5
Getty Images
1 Comment

METZ, France – Lorenzo Sonego clinched his first title of the season by beating Alexander Bublik 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the Moselle Open final.

The 27-year-old Italian did not drop a set all tournament as he won the third title of his career and first on hard courts.

The unseeded Sonego recovered from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the match and secured victory when the seventh-seeded Bublik sent a backhand return long.

He then danced on court as he celebrated a perfect tournament where he also beat defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

Sonego’s win will move him up 21 places in the ATP rankings and into 44th place.