French Open 2021: Naomi Osaka withdraws after being fined for media no-show

The world number two beat Patricia Maria-Tig before being fined $15,000 by the tournament for not honouring her media obligations – something preemptively addressed on Twitter last week. The 23-year-old ultimately withdrew, not wanting to act as a distraction for the tournament.

Osaka takes definitive stance after Slam’s needless threats

Osaka did post-match media on court, briefly addressing the Paris crowd
Angelique Kerber, Bianca Andreescu and Johanna Konta were among the biggest losers on the WTA Tour with first-round exits over the past 48 hours, though that news doesn’t compare to the media storm following Osaka – overshadowing the start of the year’s second Major.

Brief shock breakdown

  • After coming through three qualifying rounds, Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina dropped just six games against Kerber – who has now crashed out in R1 three years running
  • Sorana Cirstea was down 3-1 in the first set but recovered to win it after a gripping tiebreak, eventually ousting Konta 7-6, 6-2 in 90 minutes
  • Andreescu meanwhile, was on the losing end of a 200-minute thriller packed with tiebreaks – ultimately succumbing 6-7, 7-6, 9-7 to Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek

It’s part of the reason why she withdrew from the Grand Slam altogether yesterday, but there was plenty that unfolded before this decision had been made official.

She spoke to former player Fabrice Santoro during an on-court interview, where he raised the topic of her well-documented struggles on the surface in Paris.

All of the 23-year-old’s four Major titles have come on hard courts, while the Japanese hasn’t progressed past round three in four previous attempts.

About adapting her game on clay, she said:

“It’s a work in progress, hopefully the more I play, the better it will get.”

That won’t be happening this year, either. 102nd-ranked Ana Bogdan will be awarded a bye into round three, having dropped just four games against Italian qualifier Elisabetta Cocciaretto.

Osaka clocked 35 unforced errors in a competitive R1, but also 39 winners against the Romanian

Osaka tweeted last Wednesday that she wouldn’t participate in press conferences here, saying it was a mental health issue she didn’t want flaring up considering her relative struggles.

This week, they – the four Grand Slams – applied pressure by escalating the issue in the form of a joint letter, warning that she could be defaulted or risk suspension for future events.

After her win on Sunday, she tweeted: “anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable.”

While well-intentioned on her part, the execution could’ve been clearer but she’s not exactly wrong in her analysis that outdated issues within the environment need to be addressed.

This whole situation would be treated differently if she was, for example, world no. 200 rather than no. 2 and the sport’s brightest young athlete – male or female – by a considerable distance.

The anger and frustration comes across in beautiful writing from Jonathan Liew and Tumaini Carayol among others already this week, but while this is a sad indictment of the status quo, it’s not surprising. Whether Osaka can force genuine change going forward, remains to be seen.

Picture source: Getty Images

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