Sports

Osaka didn’t expect furor over skipping media

Naomi Osaka addressed her decision to skip media obligations at the French Open earlier this summer during a news conference at the US Open on Friday and explained she didn’t think it would be become the firestorm that it ultimately did.

“Honestly, I feel like there’s a lot of things that I did wrong in that moment, but I’m also the type of person that’s very in the moment,” Osaka said. “Like whatever I feel, I’ll say it or do it. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I think there’s a lot of things that I learned to do better. Of course, I don’t feel the same situation will happen again.

“I would say maybe think it through a bit more in the way that, like, I didn’t know how big of a deal it would become.”

Osaka, 23, announced she wouldn’t be participating in news conferences at Roland Garros ahead of the tournament and cited her mental health as the reason for the decision. She was fined after missing her session following her first-round victory and then withdrew ahead of the second round. In a post on social media, she revealed she had experienced “long bouts of depression” following her breakthrough US Open win in 2018. Her actions sparked an ongoing discussion about mental health in professional sports and the US Open recently revealed it would be adding a mental health initiative to its larger health plan.

Osaka said she was pleased to see members of the media in the news conference room on Friday and not remotely.

“I would say definitely it feels better to see the person,” Osaka said. “For me, I’m the type that if I get comfortable enough, I’ll start making jokes and stuff. It’s really off-putting just to be seated in front of a screen. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I feel, like, a lot of nerves. But it feels much better to be talking to a human.”

Osaka, currently ranked No. 3, also said she was “happy” but also “a little bit nervous” about the expected return of a near-capacity crowd at the tournament, which gets underway on Monday in New York. She said she didn’t consider herself the crowd favorite, despite her two career titles at the event, and instead speculated 17-year-old Coco Gauff probably held that distinction.

Osaka will open her title defense against Marie Bouzkova. She last played in the Western & Southern Open earlier this month, where she lost in the Round of 16.

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