Naomi Osaka has been trying hard to delicately handle her mental health.
On Monday, at the Western & Southern Open, in Cincinnati. during her first news conference since backing out of the French Open, she faced a journalist who peppered her with questions and brought the second-ranked tennis phenom to tears, CNN reports.
Cincinnati Enquirer journalist Paul Daugherty took a hard line in his approach to asking Osaka questions about her decision to withdraw from the French Open due to how she had been manhandled by journalists in their questioning.
“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,” Daugherty said.
“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?” he added, in reference to Biles’ withdrawal from several Tokyo Olympic events for mental health reasons.
Osaka, 23, responded, “When you say I’m not crazy about dealing with you guys, what does that refer to?”
Osaka took a pause and while the moderator offered the option to move on from the question, Osaka tried to answer.
“I can’t really help that there are some things that I tweet or some things that I say that kind of create a lot of news articles or things like that. And I know that it’s because I’ve won a couple Grand Slams and I’ve gotten to do a lot of press conferences that these things happen,” Osaka said.
“But I would also say like, I, I’m not really sure how to balance it. I’m figuring it out at the same time as you are, I would say,” she said.
After the question, another reporter asked Osaka about her Haiti pledge. She seemed to wipe away tears and asked for a break before exiting. She returned later and continued to take on more questions.
According to The New York Times, Osaka’s agent, Stuart Duguid criticized the reporter, calling him a “bully.”
“The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now,” Duguid said, per The New York Times’ Ben Rothenberg. “Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior.
“And this insinuation that Naomi owes her off court success to the media is a myth — don’t be so self-indulgent.”
However, the Cincinnati Enquirer’s executive editor Beryl Love defended the reporter saying he asked a straightforward question.
The 2021 Western & Southern Open takes place in Cincinnati from August 14 – 22, 2021. Last year, Osaka finished second by default. She withdrew from the final championship match due to a hamstring injury.
The four-time Grand Slam champion will be playing with Haiti in mind this year. According to perfect-tennis.com, the winner of the WTA Singles tournament will receive $255,220. The runner up will walk away with $188,945. Semifinalists will receive $100,250.