PARIS – Naomi Osaka skipped her post-match press conference at Roland Garros on Sunday, as promised.
That didn’t mean she was avoiding a question about her problems with success on red clay.
Osaka returned to Roland Garros after skipping the trip last time, picking up a 6-4, 7-6 (4) error-filled victory over 63rd Patricia Maria Tig at Court Philippe Chatrier on day one of the tournament of the Grand Slam. And after bypassing her press conference, she was fined $ 15,000.
After the 2020 French Open was pushed to an early September with a limit of 1,000 spectators per day due to the pandemic, things were closer to normal on Sunday: it was a sunny May day and more 5,000 fans were cleared, with a delay of just one week this year due to COVID-19 issues.
While not quite back to its pre-pandemic state, Roland Garros has boiled cheers and tennis.
Other results may have been more interesting – the third consecutive defeat of three-time major champion Angelique Kerber in the first round in Paris, for example – but the actions of Osaka, ranked No.2 after her match, were more interesting.
That’s because she said during the week that she would not be attending press conferences in Paris – and that she did not do a pre-tournament session with the media. What remained uncertain was whether she would participate in the superficial exchange of banter with on-field “interviewers” throwing softball questions so spectators could hear something from the game winners.
In the end, Osaka continued this conversation with former player Fabrice Santoro, who is hardly a journalist and kindly offered to help Osaka by carrying the flowers given to him by the tournament.
Santoro actually raised the topic from the surface of the event, noting that Osaka’s Grand Slam titles only arrived on hard courts.
She has won the Australian Open twice, including this year, and the US Open twice, including last year. But she never got past the third round of Roland Garros.
“I would say it’s a work in progress,” Osaka said of his clay court play. “I hope the more I play the better.”
Osaka wrote in a Twitter post on Wednesday that she was not going to participate in the standard back-and-forth with the media in Paris – the kind of thing athletes from various sports do naturally. She presented it as a mental health issue, saying that having to answer questions after a loss creates self-doubt.
Players of Grand Slam tournaments are required to attend press conferences upon request; the refusal carries fines of up to $ 20,000, not a big deal for Osaka, the world’s highest-earning female athlete thanks to endorsement deals totaling tens of millions of dollars.
Grand Slam tournaments announced Osaka’s fine in a joint statement.
“Naomi Osaka has chosen today not to honor her contractual obligations to the media,” the statement read. “The Roland-Garros referee therefore imposed a fine of $ 15,000 on him, in accordance with Article III H. of the Code of Conduct.”
Grand Slam tournaments have also noted that if Osaka continues not to speak to the media, she could face increased punishment.
As might be expected, repeated violations result in more severe penalties, including tournament non-compliance (Code of Conduct, Article III T.) and the initiation of a major breach investigation which could result in fines. more important and future suspensions of the Grand Slam (article of the Code of conduct IV A.3.) ”, indicated the tournaments in their press release.
“It’s her own choice. I think she’s able to make her own choices and obviously she will always do what’s best for her,” Tig said. “I think that’s what’s happening now. It’s her choice to do what she thinks is best for her.”
As for her impression of Osaka’s ability on clay, Tig offered this assessment: “If she wins, she will get used to it. She can play both clay and hard courts.”
Osaka showed how on Sunday: control points with their attacking play. She scored 31 of 35 points when her first serve landed and racked up 39 winners, more than double Tig’s 18.
Osaka will next face 102nd Ana Bogdan, who swept Italian qualifier Elisabetta Cocciaretto 6-1, 6-3.
The 26th seed Kerber was beaten 6-2, 6-4 by Anhelina Kalinina, a Ukraine qualifier ranked 139th and making her tournament debut.
Roland Garros remains the only Grand Slam title that Kerber did not win: she was champion at the Australian Open and the US Open in 2016 and at Wimbledon in 2018.
Additionally, Danielle Collins, Australian Open 2019 semi-finalist and French Open 2020 quarter-final, defeated Wang Xiyu 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.