Naomi Osaka’s return to the microphone ended in tears.
Osaka stayed away from the media spotlight since the French Open, citing her own mental health and criticizing the media for being overly aggressive and assertive. She withdrew from the French Open after one round and skipped Wilmbledon before participating in the Olympics after lighting the cauldron at the Opening Ceremonies in Tokyo.
In her first press conference since the withdrawals, Osaka cried following a question from Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Paul Daughtery:
“You’re not crazy about dealing with us (the media), 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 would like to share about Simone Biles?”
Osaka wanted clarification on the question before answering — which she got — and then answered admirably and in depth before being moved to tears:
She returns to press ahead of @CincyTennis . @naomiosaka | #CincyTennis pic.twitter.com/445cxg6GUt
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) August 16, 2021
Osaka responded by saying that she feels that her profile as a tennis player has elevated the media hype around her, and that the timing and occassions of press conferences also played into her dislike of dealing with the media. She says she’s still learning how to balance media requests with her apparent dislike of press-conference settings.
Osaka, flustered and crying, stepped away from the microphone for a few moments before returning and finishing out the press conference where she discussed her pledge to give her prize money to relief efforts in Haiti.
Stuart Duguid, Osaka’s agent, wasn’t too pleased with the way that Daugherty phrased the question, labeling him a “bully:”
Naomi Osaka’s agent Stuart Duguid:
“The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player / media relations are so fraught right now. Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior.”(1/2)
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 16, 2021
“The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player / media relations are so fraught right now,” Duguid said via 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.”
In a grand gesture, Osaka says she plans to donate her winnings from the Western & Southern Open to help aid relief efforts in Haiti, which has been devastated by an earthquake on Saturday that has a death toll of at least 1,400.