Naomi Osaka has an aura of her own, which is evident from her media and on-court interviews. The World No. 2 and four-time Grand Slam champion slammed a door on any more of that when she announced via social media that she won’t be participating in the mandatory interviews at the French Open. It’s a decision which has had the attention of the whole tennis world, all four Grand Slam tournaments issued a joint response.
While almost everyone was expecting a fine to be issued to Naomi Osaka, not many would have foreseen the strongly worded warning from all four Grand Slam tournaments. A $15,000 fine has been issued, as expected. But it’s the subsequent warning that can have dire consequences for Osaka and for the whole of tennis world.
The exact warning in the joint statement reads, “We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences. As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament (Code of Conduct article III T.) and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions (Code of Conduct article IV A.3.).”
The statement also spent time saying that it cares about the players’ mental health. The Grand Slams claim they have reached out to Osaka to understand what they can do to better her issues with the situation. Ultimately, though, the statement says they have to apply the Code of Conduct rules to Osaka.
The statement continues: “We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement. As a sport 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 honour their commitments.”
In essence, if Osaka continues to abstain from her mandatory interviews, at the French Open, she risks a default from the tournament and suspensions from future Grand Slams as well.
After a period where in we experienced no top player being defaulted from a Grand Slam, Novak Djokovic broke that streak at the 2020 US Open, albeit for a very different reason. Should the French Open organizers decide to default Osaka, we’ll have two top players defaulted in consecutive years.
Osaka won her first round match in straight sets and is yet to respond to the joint statement. She did stop to do an on court interview after winning her match, but she did not proceed to media availability. It remains to be seen whether there’s a middle ground between the organizers and Osaka. All things considered, it would be meteoric decision to default Naomi Osaka, who has become a superstar in the women’s game. Either way, it’s bound to be a decision that rocks the whole tennis community.
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