I told y’all once before that y’all had better keep it cute (read: supportive & encouraging) when it comes to Naomi Osaka, and now, after viewing what went down during Monday’s press conference ahead of the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio—it seems that sentiment bears some repeating.
NBC News reports that Osaka sat down to chat with reporters, marking her first WTA press conference since her decision to withdraw from the French Open in an effort to prioritize her mental health. Things were arguably going well until Cincinnati Inquirer reporter Paul Daugherty asked Osaka:
“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. I guess my question is, how do you balance the two and also do you have anything you’d like to share with us about what you did say to Simone Biles?”
After Daugherty further clarified his question and after a pause to think, Osaka replied:
“That’s interesting. I would say the occasion, like when, to do the press conference is what I feel is the most difficult, but … sorry, I’m thinking. Ever since I was younger I had a lot of media interest on me because of my background, as well as how I play. So I would say in that regard, it’s different than a lot of people. And I can’t really help that I tweet or that I say that kind of create a lot of news articles. I know it’s because I won a couple Grand Slams and I’ve gotten to do a lot of press conferences that these things happen. I’m not really sure how to balance the two, and figuring it out at the same time as you are.”
Visibly uncomfortable by the question, Naomi wiped a few tears away from her eyes and briefly exited the table after the moderator stepped in to announce a quick break. She later returned to continue taking more questions.
Per the New York Times, Osaka’s agent Stuart Duguid objected to the reporter’s tone, referring to it as “the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now.” But according to Cincinnati Enquirer Executive Editor Beryl Love, the reporter was just doing his job.
“We appreciate the respectful dialogue with Ms. Osaka at the press conference. It was a straightforward question that we feel led to a meaningful exchange. That said, we sincerely regret that our questioning upset her in any way,” Love said.