WTA open to dialogue with Osaka over press conference boycott

Osaka has received some support from several athletes but was slammed by the French Tennis Federation (FFT) for her stance.

Retired Formula One champion Nico Rosberg, former tennis player Zina Garrison and British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith have voiced their support to world number two Osaka.   -  Reuters

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) said it would welcome dialogue with world number two Naomi Osaka over her decision to boycott press conferences at this year's French Open.

Japanese player Osaka, who said the nature of questions can impact players' mental wellbeing, has received some support from several athletes but was slammed by the French Tennis Federation (FFT) for her stance.

Some of her rivals also questioned her decision ahead of the start of the Roland Garros tournament with 2019 champion Ash Barty saying press conferences are "part of the job".

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After American great Serena Williams, Osaka commands the highest profile of any female tennis player and her decision has left the WTA in an awkward position.

"Mental health is of the utmost importance to the WTA and for that matter, every individual person," the organisation said in a statement on Friday.

"We have a team of professionals and a support system in place that look after our athletes' mental and emotional health and well-being."

"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."

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However, it stressed that it also had responsibilities to the fans and public, adding: "Professional athletes have a responsibility to their sport and their fans to speak to the media surrounding their competition, allowing them the opportunity to share their perspective and tell their story."

Retired Formula One champion Nico Rosberg, former tennis player Zina Garrison and British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith have voiced their support to world number two Osaka.

13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal said that without the media, tennis players would not enjoy the same profile.

"I respect her, of course, as an athlete and her personality. I respect her decision," Nadal told reporters.

"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."

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

But Australian Barty echoed the opinion of men's world number one Novak Djokovic who says that post-match press conferences, while unpleasant, are part of the job.

"We know what we sign up for as professional tennis players," Barty told reporters on Friday. "I can't really comment on what Naomi is feeling or her decisions she makes."

READ|Osaka's French Open press conference boycott a 'phenomenal error' - FFT president

"At times press conference are hard of course but it's also not something that bothers me. Certainly doesn't keep me up at night what I say and hear or what you guys ask me."

Reigning women's champion Iga Swiatek was also asked about Osaka's decision.

"I don't find it difficult," she said. "It gives us a chance to explain our perspective, so I think it's good."

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