Naomi Osaka continues to make the news before she has struck a ball in anger at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, pledging to donate her winnings from the tournament to victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti that has killed over 1,400 people, and breaking down in tears during a news conference on Monday, her first since refusing to speak to media at the French Open 3 months ago.
When to do the press conferences is what I feel is the most difficult... But ever since I was younger, I’ve had a lot of media interest on me, and I think it’s because of my background as well as how I play. Because in the first place I’m a tennis player, which is why a lot of people are interested in me. Naomi Osaka
“Really hurts to see all the devastation that’s going on in Haiti, and I feel like we really can’t catch a break,” Osaka, whose father is Haitian, tweeted over the weekend. “I’m about to play a tournament this week and I’ll give all the prize money to relief efforts for Haiti.
“I know our ancestors blood is strong we’ll keep rising.”
The champion of the women’s singles tournament will receive $225,220 (£184,000/€216,350).
In the media call, Osaka was asked by a reporter from a Cincinnati newspaper: “You’re not crazy about dealing with us, especially in this format. Yet you have a lot of outside interests that are served by having a media platform. How do you balance the two?”
“That’s interesting: I would say the occasion, when to do the press conferences is what I feel is the most difficult,” said Osaka, before pausing. “I’m actually very interested in that point of view.
“For me I feel this is something I can’t really speak for everybody, I can only speak for myself.
“But ever since I was younger, I’ve had a lot of media interest on me, and I think it’s because of my background as well as how I play.
“Because in the first place I’m a tennis player, which is why a lot of people are interested in me.
“So I would say in that regard I’m quite different to a lot of people, and I can’t really help that there are some things I tweet or say that create a lot of news articles or things like that.
“But I would also say, I’m not really sure how to balance it too, I’m figuring it out at the same time as you are, I would say.”
She then broke down while trying to listen to the next question, her mental frailty clear, before leaving the room to compose herself.
She returned five minutes later to answer a further question in English, and several in Japanese, saying: “Sorry for walking out.”
Osaka’s agent, Stuart Duguid, condemned the reporter’s line of questioning on Monday in a statement provided to Reuters: “The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now,” he said.
“Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behaviour. And this insinuation that Naomi owes her off-court success to the media is a myth – don’t be so self-indulgent.”
Osaka lit the Olympic flame at Tokyo 2020, but suffered a third-round exit against Czech Marketa Vondrousova.
Tokyo 2020 was the first event the Japanese had played in since withdrawing from the French Open for reasons of mental health.
The World No 2, who received a first round bye, will play the winner of Tuesday’s match between American prodigy Coco Gauff and Su-Wei Hsieh from Taipei on Wednesday.