The women’s tennis association said it would welcome dialogue with world number 2 Naomi Osaka about her decision to boycott boycott conferences at this year’s French Open.
Osaka, who said the nature of the questions could affect players’ mental wellbeing, has had the support of several athletes but has been criticized by the French Tennis Federation for their stance.
Some of their rivals also questioned their decision before the start of the Roland Garros tournament. 2019 champion Ashleigh Barty said press conferences were “part of the job”.
After the great American American Serena Williams, Osaka has the highest profile of any tennis player, and her decision has put the WTA in a difficult position.
“Mental health is of the utmost importance to the WTA and to every single person,” the organization said in a statement on Friday. “We have a team of professionals and a support system that takes care of the mental and emotional health and wellbeing of our athletes.
“The WTA welcomes a dialogue with Naomi (and all players) to discuss possible approaches that can assist an athlete in coping with mental health issues.”
However, it stressed that it also has a responsibility to fans and the public, adding, “Professional athletes have a responsibility to their sport and their fans to speak to the media around their competition to give them the opportunity to see their perspective to share and tell their story. “
Retired Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg, former tennis player Zina Garrison and British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith have expressed their support for Osaka.
But Barty echoed the opinion of Novak Djokovic, the number 1 man in the world, who said that postmatch press conferences, while uncomfortable, 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 what decisions she makes.
“Sometimes press conferences are of course difficult, but there is nothing that bothers me. Sure, what I say and hear or what you ask me does not stop me at night.”
The reigning women’s winner Iga Swiatek was also asked about Osaka’s decision.
“I don’t find it difficult,” she said. “It gives us the opportunity to explain our perspective, so I think it’s good.”
The President of the French Tennis Federation, Gilles Moretton, described Osaka’s approach as a “phenomenal mistake”.
“What is happening is unacceptable in my opinion. We will obey the laws and rules on penalties and fines,” he said. According to the Grand Slam rulebook, players can be fined up to $ 20,000 for skipping a media conference, but Osaka said it was ready to accept any sanction.
Osaka said she hopes the “substantial amount” she expected to expire will be used for a mental health charity.
“I’m writing this to say I won’t be doing any press during Roland Garros,” Osaka, who lives in the US, wrote on Twitter. “I often feel that people are neglecting the mental health of athletes and this is true whenever I watch or attend a press conference,” she added.
“We often sit there and ask questions that we have been asked several times and I just won’t submit to people who doubt me.”
Osaka, which has earned $ 55.2 million in the past 12 months according to sports shop website Sportico, has historically used its platform and significant media attention to highlight issues such as police violence and racial inequality.