Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has been fined $15,000 by the French Open after she did not attend a mandatory press conference after her first match on Sunday.
Osaka, who is ranked World No. 2, announced on her social media on Thursday May 26 that she would not be doing any press during the French Open due to the effects of reporters’ questions on players’ mental health.
“We are 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,” the 23-year-old wrote. “I’ve watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well. I believe the whole situation is kicking a person while they’re down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it.”
She added that she hopes the “considerable amount” she gets fined will go towards a mental health charity.
In response to her post, the president of the French Tennis Federation said that Osaka was making a “phenomenal mistake.”
“What is happening there is, in my opinion, not acceptable. There are rules, laws. We will stick to the laws and rules for penalties and fines,” he wrote.
Press conferences are mandatory under the grand slam rules, and players can be fined up to $20,000 for missing them. However, players will occasionally skip a press conference and be fined after a particularly bad loss, although fines rarely reach the maximum.
For example, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic skipped the press conference after he was disqualified after accidentally striking a ball at the neck of a lineswoman during the fourth round of last year’s US Open, according to the Guardian. He was fined $7,500.
Seven-time grand slam champion Venus Williams also skipped numerous press conferences between 2015 and 2016 and was fined between $3,000 and $5,000.
French Open officials said in a statement that they had asked Osaka 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.”
Officials said the Australian Open, Roland-Garros (the French Open), Wimbledon and the US Open jointly wrote to Osaka to check on her well-being, offer support and suggest dialog on the issue.
“She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players,” the statement added.
Organizers said that repeated violations could lead to tougher sanctions including default from the tournament and triggering a “major offense investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions.”
The French Open has since deleted a tweet where it praised players who attended the press conferences after it was criticized. The tweet featured photos of players Rafa Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff at their press conferences with the caption, “They understood the assignment.”
“Anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable,” Osaka tweeted on Sunday, when she won her opening round against Romanian World No. 63 Patricia Maria Tig.
Osaka has received support from other celebrities such as Nicki Minaj, Janelle Monae, and Williams, who commented on her announcement with “Girl, do you. Your life is yours to live!”
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