4 days after saying she wouldn’t be chatting with press on the French Open to be able to defend her psychological well being, Naomi Osaka was handed a $15,000 nice and instructed harsher penalties have been on their method ought to she proceed to decide out. 5 days after her preliminary announcement and in the future after profitable her opening match towards Patricia Maria Tig, Osaka withdrew from the event altogether. “I feel now the most effective factor for the event, the opposite gamers and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everybody can get again to specializing in the tennis occurring in Paris,” Osaka wrote on social media. The No. 2-ranked tennis participant on the planet stated she’s handled “lengthy bouts of melancholy” in addition to nervousness earlier than chatting with media. Then Osaka, the highest-paid girl athlete on the planet, introduced she was taking a hiatus.
Predictably, some sportswriters weren’t thrilled to lose entry to the tennis star. And whereas dozens of athletes voiced help for Osaka, together with Coco Gauff, Simone Biles, and Stephen Curry, others stated doing press merely comes with the territory of an expert athlete. “That is what you signed up for,” stated American Sofia Kenin, in keeping with The New York Occasions. “That is sport. . . . You simply need to someway handle it.” Added two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, “I feel it is crucial in creating our sport, in selling our sport.”
Naturally, the World Tennis Affiliation (WTA) Tour agreed. “Skilled athletes have a duty to their sport and their followers to talk to the media surrounding their competitors, permitting them the chance to share their perspective and inform their story,” the WTA stated final week. In the meantime, throughout social media and even in some retailers, folks expressed blatant doubt over the legitimacy of Osaka’s psychological well being points. “It is not the tip of the world to do a press convention,” was the flavour of most of the feedback I noticed.
So earlier than we go any additional, here is a reminder that random folks on Twitter do not get to have a say about your psychological well being, interval. If a postmatch press convention seems like a stroll within the park to you, that is nice. It is lower than any of us to determine what it does or does not do to Naomi Osaka’s psychological well being. And so far as selling the game of tennis, it looks like the best method she will do that’s by enjoying her finest tennis. If Naomi Osaka (and sure different gamers) performs finest by steering away from press conferences, possibly the powers that be ought to take that into consideration.
That brings me to my favourite argument of all of them: “It is a part of the job.” Let’s grant that, even with social media, some press interplay is unavoidable for an expert athlete. It is the postmatch press conferences, which Osaka famous particularly in her posts, that are typically essentially the most brutal, with mentally and bodily drained athletes going by way of the wringer proper after a match. Tennis gamers do not have teammates or coaches to take the brunt of the blow, both. And this relationship does not work for both aspect if it damages the athlete’s psychological well being; not solely might their efficiency undergo, nevertheless it’s arduous to consider we get the most effective solutions, particularly from extra introverted athletes like Osaka, within the pressure-cooker setting of a postmatch press convention. Nobody wins.
And nobody’s profitable at the moment, both, with tennis’s brightest younger star dropping out of a serious event and her psychological well being apparently a matter of public debate. “It is simply a part of the job” is the equal of “However that is the way it’s all the time been performed,” which is normally the final gasp and worst excuse from somebody about to lose an argument. Positive, that is the way in which it is all the time been performed, but when it isn’t working for top-of-the-line athletes on the planet, with dozens of others backing her up, it could be time for issues to alter. We do not know what that appears like but, however Osaka herself stated she’d assist determine it out. What issues is that athletes, identical to everybody else, are allowed to prioritize their psychological well being, and recognizing that guidelines in the way in which of that must be reexamined. And to make that attainable, everybody wants to return from a spot not of judgment — “Suck it up” or “Simply do your job” — however of empathy.