Osaka threatened with French Open disqualification over media boycott

Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after winning against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig during their women’s singles first round tennis match on Day 1 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on May 30, 2021. (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU / AFP)

Naomi Osaka has been threatened with disqualification from the ongoing French Open by Grand Slam organizers if she continues her media boycott at Roland Garros.

“We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations, she would be exposing herself to possible further code of conduct infringement consequences,” said a statement from the four Grand Slam tournaments after the world number two was fined $15,000.

“Repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament and the trigger of a major offense investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions.”

Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam title winner and sport’s highest-earning female athlete, was sanctioned for refusing to hold a press conference after her opening 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) victory over the Romanian world number 63 Patricia Maria Tig.

The 23-year-old had said on the eve of the tournament that she would not carry out any media obligations, claiming news conferences are detrimental to her mental health. She likened traditional post-match inquests to “kicking people when they’re down”.

French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton had described Osaka’s vow of silence as “a phenomenal error”.

The four Grand Slam events, Wimbledon, the French, Australian, and US Opens, said they had written to Osaka “to check on her well-being and offer support”.

“She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them, and that rules should equally apply to all players.

“Naomi Osaka today chose not to honor her contractual media obligations. The Roland Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine.”

Later on Sunday Osaka’s position became more entrenched when she tweeted in response to her fine: “Anger is a lack of understanding. Change makes people uncomfortable.”

After her match, Osaka agreed only to a cursory on-court TV interview.

“For me, playing on clay is a work in progress,” said the reigning US and Australian Open champion on a sun-kissed Court Philippe Chatrier.

“Hopefully the more I play, the better I will become.”

And that was that from a player who has now strung together 15 successive Grand Slam match wins.

‘It’s not good’

The Grand Slam Board said Osaka’s refusal to take part in media duties put opponents at a disadvantage.

“There is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honor their commitments.”

Osaka’s compatriot Kei Nishikori added: “It’s not good but I understand her situation. So it’s good and bad.”

Three infamous defaults at tennis’ Grand Slam tournaments:

Novak Djokovic: 2020 US Open– Perhaps the most memorable default in major history came only eight months ago when world number one Djokovic was disqualified after accidentally striking a female line judge with a ball in frustration.

The Serbian star’s last-16 match against Pablo Carreno Busta lasted less than one set, as Djokovic hit the ball away in disgust after being broken to fall 6-5 behind, with it hitting the line judge in the throat.

Djokovic pleaded his case to the umpire and tournament referee Soeren Friemel, but after 10 minutes of discussion, it was announced that the top seed’s US Open was over.

He went then directly to his car and left the Flushing Meadows site in New York without speaking to reporters.

“I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong,” Djokovic later said in an apology posted on social media.

Jeff Tarango: 1995 Wimbledon– Tarango argued repeatedly with chair umpire Bruno Rebeuh during a third round match against Alexander Mronz and the American refused to continue to play, effectively defaulting himself.

Rebeuh gave him a code violation for telling spectators to “shut up”, claiming it was an audible obscenity.

Tarango accused Rebeuh of being “one of the most corrupt officials in the game” so Rebeuh gave the American another code violation.

Tarango packed up his racquets and stormed off the court. Tarango’s wife then slapped Rebeuh twice in the face.

John McEnroe: 1990 Australian Open– One of McEnroe’s most notorious tantrums. Facing Sweden’s Mikael Pernfors, he was warned for intimidating a lineswoman, docked a point for smashing a racquet, and shouted at a fan whose baby was crying.

He then abused tournament supervisor Ken Farrar. Umpire Gerry Armstrong immediately disqualified the American who admitted later: “I can’t say I’m surprised. It was bound to happen.”

McEnroe also said he had misunderstood the rules, not realizing they had changed to a three-strike process for a default rather than the previous four-strike system.

Not a modern phenomenon– However, getting kicked out of Grand Slam events isn’t new.

The last player to be defaulted before McEnroe was Spaniard Willie Alvarez at the French Championships in 1963.

American Earl Cochell was defaulted from the US Championships in 1951 and banned for life from the sport for arguing with officials. He was allowed to return in 1962 but his best days were long behind him.

by AFP


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