Rafael Nadal comments on Naomi Osaka’s Roland Garros media boycott

(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

World No. 3 Rafael Nadal has addressed Naomi Osaka’s plans not to speak to the media at the French Open. Speaking at the pre-tournament media day, our champ said:

“I respect her, of course, as an athlete and her personality. I respect her decision.”

“We need to be ready to accept the questions and to try to produce an answer. Without the people writing the news and achievements that we are having around the world, probably we will not be the athletes that we are today. We aren’t going to have the recognition that we have around the world, and we will not be that popular, no?

“I have my point of view that the media is a very important part of our sport.”

Source: The New York Times

38 comments

  1. Mari, Naomi’s sister posted a message, on Reddit, which has since been deleted. It does add clarity to Naomi’s statement.

    I would like to interject that crying is a natural response, for some, to happiness or sadness. I don’t look at crying as a bad thing. I remember Roger breaking down when he lost to Rafa [at the Australian?]. Some of the comments were quite distasteful.

    “Naomi mentioned to me before the tournament that a family member member had come up to her and remarked that she’s bad at clay. At every press conference she’s told she has a bad record on clay. When she lost in Rome r1 she was not okay mentally. Her confidence was completely shattered and I think everyone’s remarks and opinions have gotten to her head and she herself believed that she was bad on clay. This isn’t true and she knows that in order to do well and have a shot at winning Roland Garros she will have to believe that she can. That’s the first step any athlete needs to do.

    So her solution was to block everything out. No talking to people who [are] going to put doubt in her mind. She’s protecting her mind hence why it’s called mental health. So many people are picky on this term thinking you need to have depression or have some sort of disorder to be able to use the term mental health.

    I don’t know what she is going to do in the future when the tournament pushes back and threatens to default her but I fully support my sister’s actions because she’s just trying to do what’s best for her. Tennis players don’t get paid to do press conferences. They only get paid when they win matches.

    There is the argument that she can afford to skip while others can’t. What if they want to and she’s setting precedent so that they can in the future if wanted? When I lost my one [WTA] match where I had to do a press conference afterwards I broke down in the room unfortunately and then saw headlines after of me, crying. It was embarrassing and it’s forced on players. Some can take it and some struggle with it.”

  2. I agree with all of the above – I do feel she should rather “learn” to deal with the questions and answer “Next Please” – many many players have had to face the press after loosing – this is nothing new – Raphael is ”On the Button” with his comment once again – I have noticed players say ”As I have said” and then just shortly repeat the answer to keep everyone happy!
    All the very best champ you can do it we await no 14!!!!

  3. For anyone interested the full statement released jointly by the Presidents of all 4 Grand Slams is posted on the Roland Garros website …titled STATEMENT FROM GRAND SLAM TOURNAMENTS REGARDING NAOMI OSAKA..

    It’s rather lengthy, and it sends a clear message that they are always willing to listen to the players and offer support for any issue brought forward…. But what Naomi did was go against every rule in place regarding the press, without discussing it with anyone first….

    I truly believe that she had no idea what type of backlash this would create… I think she is getting some really bad advice by those around her in terms of letting her go out there and make a blanket statement …” I’m not talking to the press at this French Open” rather than advise her in advance to speak to the WTA first… or reach out to the French Open to discuss her concerns…

    Sounds like she and her team feel that her only obligation is to play her heart out on the court and that’s all she needs to do… but in truth the tennis players obligation goes further than that …both to the tournament and fans alike…

    It’s interesting…. she has already stated that she has a very good relationship with many of the press…. She could have gone to all press conferences after a win…. and if she lost a match and wanted to bow out of the pressor because of mental health reasons…. well then she takes the fine for missing 1 press conference.
    She decided to go a different way….

    Naomi is a very talented young lady…I hope she gets the help she needs both personally and professionally….

  4. I agree Margo. I think a sports psychologist would be a very good idea for Naomi. (Iga S apparently travels with one.) Naomi is a successful sportswoman who must expect to answer some difficult questions when she loses (which isn’t very often) and so must learn how to deal with them. Nobody wants to see any player reduced to tears and one would hope that, if/when that happens, the Tournament Representative in attendance would intervene to ameliorate the situation. (I am sure the vast majority of players would rather be somewhere else after losing a match but it is what it is. I think they just have to ‘grin and bear’ it.)
    As for having to answer repetitive questions, I can see why that might be tedious and boring but not injurious to a player’s mental health.
    The bottom line is the WTA can’t be seen to condone Naomi’s refusal to speak to the Press. No-one should be allowed to circumvent the rules of participation by paying fines, especially the top players who everyone wants to hear from and who, like it or not, are role models for the rest. The fines are, in any event, meaningless for the top players. I hope she can be persuaded to abandon her stance on this.

    • She was fined $15,000 today. All four GS’s have released statements saying that there may be sanctions added to the fines even including being defaulted from the tournament. This is very serious. Hoping Naomi’s team can help her with this issue in whatever way possible.

      • Correction: It was a joint statement by them and they claimed to have reached out to her with an offer to help which was not responded to.

        She can furthermore face a ban from future Grand Slams.

        Source:Christopher Clarey.

    • Ginagigi, her sister, Mari, has posted a statement in support of Naomi which I posted above.

      I just hope Mari’s comment about “setting precedent” does not become the focus of this subject: mental health.

    • That’s right…I’m sure almost all of the players hate the press conferences. They do ask the most stupid questions. After losing a gut wrenching match many players shed tears… it’s a normal emotion! I’m not sure how soon after the match they have to do the press conferences but it seems like it’s too soon. The player should be able to collect their thoughts and their emotions before having to face the press. It can all be worked out. I do believe Naomi should have discussed it privately first but in the long run it’s like with Dominic… They have to decide what’s best for their life & perhaps being a superstar and all goes along with it… isn’t exactly for them. Ps. Roger did more than cry at the AO losing to Rafa. He had a complete breakdown & Rafa had to console him. I was angry because I thought it took away from Rafa’s glory… just my opinion!

      • I couldn’t be angry if I tried. My eyes were riveted on Rafa as I marveled at how calm he was. The patience he demonstrated. Rafa treated Roger with such caring and understanding as if he knew exactly what Roger was going through. As if he had had an equally sad loss. And Rafa was only 22-years-old at the time. Rafa showed the world what he was made of.

      • That’s very true but it went on and on & he was doing the ugly cry. I do think the whole world fell in love with Rafa watching him console Roger! I have always wondered who the
        fans love more in Australia… I try and listen to the chanting but in England and Australia Roger and Rafa sound a lot a like with their accents! Rogers is like a rockstar wherever he goes. I have seen people crying getting all hysterical! Maybe one of the Aussie here on this site can tell me who’s The favorite in Australia (when they have a match together) of! My English friend says it’s pretty split.,. They are both extremely popular but perhaps just a tad more for Roger!

  5. A speech coach is not an ESL teacher. Fluency clearly is not the issue. Executives hire speech coaches to improve their public speaking, to deliver a message with confidence and clarity. Speech coaches are great team builders; students practice their speeches, and even anticipate possible
    questions. Regardless, team Osaka will make the call.

  6. I have always thought of Naomi as a very fragile and shy young lady.. And yet, as she has grown up I have witnessed her coming into her own not only evolving as a force to be reckoned with on the tennis court but also as an outspoken sports star using her celebrity to address today’s issues in the U.S. And I for one have always felt that she has every right to do that…
    However, this issue about “no press” boggles my mind…. She sights “mental health”… Well I agree with all of you, she needs a solid sports psychologist to help her deal with this…. because as a sports athlete she can’t make the rules… Every professional sport i.e. tennis…basketball…football….. win or lose, the athletes have to attend a press conference and if they don’t they get fined… Its part of the job…

    It’s no surprise to me at media day Rafa was asked for a comment to which he openly and honestly answered that he sees the media as a very important part of the sport. I for one have always gotten a sense from Rafa that press conferences are basically mundane . The press asks a lot of the same questions over and over again and Rafa pretty much says the same thing when he wins ..as he was pleased with his performance… and when he loses he always says his opponent played better than him and deserved to win….
    Simple….easy……respectful….

    I wish Naomi well as I think if she is going to sight a very popular subject these days “Mental health” then she needs to get some help emotionally when dealing with the press, who in addition to a players talent is an intricate part of a players popularity and success…

    • So true Marileena. While the WTA is open to dialogue with Naomi, according to reports, they are sticking to press rules. I feel she is alone on this and feel it may have been building up for a while. It’s possible that she finally got the courage to confront it.

  7. Anyone who read Naomi’s statement would have had the impression that Naomi already tried to have a dialogue with them. Now I’m not so sure.

    On Friday “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,” a WTA spokeswoman said in an email to the Associated Press.

  8. I am hoping Djokovic will become irrelevant at the FO. One less obstacle to deal with.

    He won the Belgrade2 title against world #255 ranked Alex Molcan, 6-4, 6-3.

    He won the semifinal against world #119 Andrej Martin but dropped a set, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.

    He won the Round of 16 against world #253 Matt’s Moraing after having a major racquet-breaking meltdown 6-2, 7[7]-6[4]. Yes, you guessed right that the meltdown happened during the second set.

      • Yes, plastered all over the Internet. I couldn’t believe it because it sounded pretty bad. He was potentially losing to a 253-ranked player.

        Djokovic even responded to someone’s tweet about his meltdown and his response was something to the effect that the fact he played against a #253 was a bigger story than his meltdown. I LAUGHED SO HARD.

        I also couldn’t believe that he wants to be a good example for the kids of Serbia.

        On Twitter I follow many tennis reporters and players so when something of note happens the twitterati is all over the place sending out tweets.

        Someone opened a Dr. Fauci Fans Twitter account but unfortunately he himself is not on Twitter. I wouldn’t expect him to be but was hoping. LOL

    • Whoever writes the tweets for the French Open has a sense of humour. The headline was that after winning his hometown title he (N.D.) is proving that he is just as dangerous as ever. If it isn’t tongue in cheek it is insulting to the intelligence of tennis fans.

      Naomi gave an on court interview after her win vs Tig. They only interview the winners so it presents no problem to her unlike the pressers where she would have to answer questions about a loss.

      • Pauline, shame on you!!! 😂🤣😂
        re ND. He is world #1 and only he could beat a #255 which followed a win over #253. And at the same tournament. Is that a record? He sure is a danger …. to himself.

        Re Naomi, she “answered a few queries on her way off the court from Wowow, the Japanese broadcaster with whom she is under contract,” according to the NYTimes.

        Facing being banned from tournaments and ousted from the FO, her detractors will be jubilant and her adherents may find it difficult to keep supporting her if she refuses to engage in constructive dialogue with tournament officials. She’s got a lot to lose.

        Has it been established that it’s only the FO pressers she refuses to attend or all pressers? I don’t know. What is sure is that all the tournaments will talk as one. They have accepted a skipped presser here and there but to refuse all pressers at one or all tournaments will not be accepted. “Intolerable” is what one official said.

    • 🤣😂…So funny ! He has a nasty disposition! Pitching a fit in your own country! I would be careful if I were Jelena!

  9. Somewhere, somehow, she has it in her mind that because she is who she is ,she can request or demand special understanding . When one takes the spotlight, one answers for ones actions be it easy or not. I believe that Rafa is right. He stands for the greater good most always!!! Vamos, man!!

  10. Rafa wields the press amazingly well and English is not his native language. When initially listening to Naomi Osaka, she struggled to speak. This has become problematic since she has chosen to weigh
    in on significant issues. And, of course, the endorsements are lucrative. Lorna suggested a sports
    psychologist; a speech coach would be a logical choice also. Mental health is at the forefront at the moment, but it is not the catchall for every mishap. “You can’t always get what you want-sometimes you try, you might find-you get what you need.”

    • Isabel Lee, Naomi is a shy person which could be a contributing factor in her resistance to pressers. What you subjectively described [her struggle to speak] may have been a manifestation of her shyness. There is nothing wrong with her speech or grammar in English. She does not speak Japanese fluently and one reporter was insisting she answer in Japanese. If that happened to me I would have said “next question” to a different reporter. It is because of her English skills that her endorsements have increased. So I stand by my suggestion that she enlist a sports psychologist or mental health expert. The pressers are causing her too much angst. As Lorna said, the pressers seem to be affecting her more than they do other players. We don’t know life experiences that may have affected her negatively. It’s up to Naomi to get help if she wants it but I also think the WTA should play their part in helping players be their best.

      You have thrown everything at her; her endorsements, her activism, her speech, and I think it’s unfair.

      • I totally agree, Margo. It’s a bit extreme to suggest that Naomi needs a speech coach and i’m sure she’d find that insulting. She’s sensitive and shy not inarticulate.

      • Lorna, I am at a loss to understand the disparaging comments made about Naomi. It’s painful to read.

  11. Naomi Broady, who now commentates for Amazon Prime, suggested that maybe players could be given a bit of time to get their heads together after a match, and then go into the press conference. I take Naomi Osaka’s point that it’s difficult to deal with insensitive press questions straight after a defeat, but, without the media coverage, there’d be a lot less interest in the sport, as Rafa says, and a lot less sponsorship meaning that a lot of tournaments wouldn’t be able to exist at all.

  12. Rafa is bang on again…says it like it is.
    Stay safe and healthy !
    Vamos Rafa, good luck xoxo

  13. Rafa is looking at the bigger picture and says it as he sees it. He makes some very valid points. Noami is a very sensitive soul and i think this matter is something which affects her personally than the tour at large.

    There are players who have skipped press conferences or interviews and taken a fine on the odd occasion when they’ve had a really bad day and lost, but they accept that in general, interviews are part and parcel of the media commitments of the sport. In fact, there are many players – unlike Naomi – who just can’t afford a fine. You can’t win every match and maybe Naomi needs to enlist the help of a sports psychologist to help her develop the mental fortitude when it comes to dealing with the press, win or lose.

    It will be interesting to see just how much support she gets from other players for her proposal..

  14. I didn’t think Rafa would weigh in on this topic but he has and his response is far superior to MANY I have already read. Others have said it’s part of any sport, or it’s the rule, or once you finish your match your obligation is over because athletes are seen as “entertainers.”

    I don’t always agree with Rafa but I have to say his reasoning on this subject is the best I’ve read. He explains exactly what the interviews have accomplished and when he says “we” I understand him to mean the Sport itself and the individual players. No?

    • As always, Rafa is polite and respectful. He disagrees with Naomi but does so with his usual tact and diplomacy. It is part of the job after all. It must be very difficult to face the press after a big loss, especially when a top player loses to a lower ranked player, but I don’t see a way around it. I don’t see it as a mental health issue. Naomi may be young but she is a woman, not a child that needs to be shielded. My only suggestion would be to allow the defeated player a little more time to compose themselves before they meet the press. That said, I would think the logistics are such that it may not be possible to allow them very much time. A minimum thirty minutes would be reasonable I think.

      • Excellent “thirty minutes” suggestion but Naomi also mentioned the repetitive questions that she’s been asked and has answered over and over again. That happens to Rafa without fail and he finds a way to deal with it. She may need help in this regard too.

        Many may not see it as a mental health issue, yes, but what’s important is that Naomi does. I suggested she see a sports psychologist for that very reason. It seems to be extremely difficult for her to deal with. There is something else in play indicated by her expressed feeling that some journalists “make her doubt herself.” That, in my opinion, is a cry for help. I don’t think anyone suggested she be shielded.

        After Setinthepast commented on Naomi’s boycott I read her full statement. I tried to copy and paste but it didn’t work.

        I hope she figures it out because champions, which she is, don’t run away.

Leave a Reply