Djokovic sympathises with Osaka, but says media is important

JULIEN PRETOT

NOVAK Djokovic said he understood Naomi Osaka’s decision to boycott post-match press conferences, which he thinks could feel outdated for a player of the Japanese’s age.

The Serbian, who eased into the second round at Roland Garros, also expressed sympathy for the 23-year-old Osaka, who revealed she had been suffering from depression.

Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday after being fined $15,000 by the tournament referee and threatened with exclusion from Roland Garros and future majors for declining to face the media after her first-round match on Sunday.

“The Grand Slams are protecting themselves and their own business. Of course they are going to follow the rules and they are going to make sure that you are complying,” Djokovic said after kicking off his French Open campaign with a routine 6-2 6-4 6-2 win against American Tennys Sandgren.

The 18-time Grand Slam champion said that a change in the way athletes interact with fans might have led Osaka to announce she would not attend the mandatory post-match news conferences.

“The media is important, without a doubt. It’s allowing us to have the platform to communicate with our fans, but in a more traditional way,” the Serbian explained.

“It used to be the only way how we can reach out to our fans, right, in the last five years or maybe 10 years it’s not the case anymore.

“We have our own platforms, our own social media accounts through which we are able to communicate directly with fans. Naomi, she’s very young and she grew up obviously with social media and ability to speak out through her channels.”

Although he believes news conferences are “part of our sport”, Djokovic was sympathetic towards Osaka.

“Look, I can understand her very well, and I empathize with her, because I was on the wrong edge of the sword in my career many times with media. I know how it feels,” he said

  • French number one Gael Monfils said tennis needed Osaka back on court.

One of the biggest names in sport, Osaka stunned the tennis world when she pulled out of the Grand Slam on Monday after being fined and threatened with expulsion for declining to face the media after her first-round match on Sunday.

She received support from her home country, sponsors, fellow athletes and fans, with Monfils chipping in after his first-round win at Roland Garros on Tuesday.

“We need Naomi. We need her definitely to be 100%. We need her back on the court, back on the press conference, and back happy. You know, that’s what we need,” world number 15 Monfils told a news conference.

Monfils said all players were not similarly equipped to deal with the pressure of being a top athlete.

“What she’s dealing with is tough for me to even judge, because I think she has massive pressure from many things,” he said.

“I think she’s quite young. She’s handling it quite well. Sometimes we want maybe too much from her, and then how she says maybe she can’t manage it that well, so sometimes for sure she’s going to make some mistakes.

“But I give her always the chance because she’s a champion, she’s quite young, she has a huge influence… So I think she needs… to take some time for herself to work on herself, feel better.”

Osaka also said that she would take time away from the court in order to focus on her mental health.


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