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Djokovic says press briefs part of sport

May 28, 2021 10:38 IST
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Mixed reactions pour in as Osaka debate rages on.

Novak Djokovic said Osaka, "probably (had) her reasons why" but fell short of endorsing the four-times Grand Slam champion's move.

IMAGE: Novak Djokovic said Osaka, "probably (had) her reasons why" but fell short of endorsing the four-times Grand Slam champion's move. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Facing the media can be "very unpleasant" but it is part of tennis, said world number one Novak Djokovic, as debate continued to rage on Friday over Naomi Osaka's decision to boycott press conferences at the French Open.

 

Women's world number two Osaka stunned the tennis world when she announced she would not do any press conferences at the Grand Slam to protect her mental health, prompting criticism from French Tennis Federation President Gilles Moretton.

Djokovic said Osaka, "probably (had) her reasons why" but fell short of endorsing the four-times Grand Slam champion's move.

"I understand that press conferences sometimes can be very unpleasant," Djokovic told reporters after beating Federico Coria 6-1, 6-0 to reach the Belgrade Open semi-finals on Thursday.

"And it's not something that you enjoy, always, you know, especially if you lose a match or something like this.

"But it is part of the sport and part of your life on the tour. This is something we have to do, otherwise, we will get fined.

"I mean, that's at least the case on the men's side. I don't know about the rules on the women's side. So that's all I can say."

According to Grand Slam rules, players must attend post-match media conferences within 30 minutes of their match finishing or be subject to fines of up to $20,000 unless injured or physically unable to appear.

Serbian Djokovic has fallen foul of the rule, receiving a fine of $7,500 after skipping media following his disqualification from the 2019 US Open for hitting a ball into a line judge's throat.

Retired Australian professional-turned-media pundit Sam Groth said Osaka's boycott was a "slap in the face" to the sport and said cutting off journalists while remaining engaged on social media was "hypocrisy".

"Media conferences are attended by accredited members of the media, many of whom have established meaningful rapports with players," he wrote in a column in Melbourne's Herald-Sun newspaper on Friday.

"Social media platforms are a bottomless void of trolls and bots who are answerable to no-one and have few policies of decency."

Osaka drew support from British tennis player and BBC commentator Naomi Broady, who said officials could look at modifying the rules for mandatory media conferences.

"If it was just more time after that big loss, so that you can compose yourself and digest and cry out of the spotlight ... ," she said.

"If it's on an occasion when you are so upset it's difficult that you're almost forced by the rules to do it so quickly."

Former world number one doubles player Rennae Stubbs, an ESPN commentator, also backed Osaka, tweeting that it was "an amazing moment" for the media to listen to the players and understand "how tough it is for many of them".

Retired Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg said he respects Naomi Osaka's decision to shun French Open press conferences for mental health reasons but recognised opponents could find it unfair.

The German made considerable use of sports psychology as he battled and beat Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton, now the sport's most successful driver of all time, to the title in a gruelling 2016 season.

Much of the stress, the German told Reuters on Thursday, came from the media repeatedly questioning his abilities and mental strength.

"I think it’s quite a ballsy step again from her," Rosberg said of Osaka's move, which Japan's four-times major winner and world number two communicated on social media.

"I can understand because when I was on my way to the championship… I switched everything off. No media, no news, no emails," said Rosberg, speaking after the announcement of online brokerage IG Prime as a partner of his Extreme E team.

"I had nothing. No phone, no nothing. Just focus. For the last five months en route to the championship.

"Focus is a key differentiator when you’re trying to have success."

Rosberg said the problem came at the track when he faced questions along the lines of 'you’ve never won before when you’ve been in such a situation', 'are you too weak to win?' and 'Are you going to be forever a number two?'.

"I can’t just say I’m not interested in answering. I have to answer, to remain polite. In those difficult phases, that’s hard," he said.

"To get these repetitions from you guys every single time, and every single day after driving. You make a mistake out there in free practice and...'Are you feeling the pressure Nico? Is that why you made that mistake?'

"That’s hard. So I can definitely understand Naomi.

"If she has acute mental health challenges than that’s totally respectable."

Rosberg recognised he would have felt at a disadvantage if Hamilton had been able to excuse himself from media commitments while he and others had to continue with them.

"It’s unfair, but at the same time if its really about acute mental health problems then it does become fair because that is more important than anything else," he added. "So it really depends on her situation.

"Mental health is mental health so you can’t say you have to withstand the same pressures.

"Maybe a compromise would be that...she has to hold a statement at least where she tries to elaborate a little bit without any questions being allowed."

 

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Source: REUTERS
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