Tennis

Naomi Osaka pauses press conference in tears after exchange with reporter

Naomi Osaka, preparing to compete in her first tennis tournament since the Tokyo Olympics, briefly took a break during a pre-tournament news conference on Monday after she started crying.

The Western & Southern Open news conference in Mason, Ohio, began with Osaka answering questions regarding mental health and doing press conferences — subjects she sparked a widespread conversation about earlier this year when she withdrew from the French Open because she didn’t want to participate in news conferences, citing her mental health.

Following those questions, Osaka was in the midst of being asked about preparation for the summer hard court portion of the season and her reaction to what is going on in Haiti following a devastating earthquake. Osaka’s father is a Haiti native, and the tennis superstar said in a tweet Saturday she would give prize money she earns at the Western & Southern Open to Haiti relief efforts.

It was during that portion of the session that Osaka began to wipe her face and pulled her hat down over her eyes. A reporter said, “Sorry,” as Osaka got emotional, to which Osaka replied, “No, you’re super good.”

With Osaka crying, the moderator said they would take a quick break. After a few minutes, Osaka returned to finish the session. She apologized for walking out.

Before this unfolded, Osaka got into an exchange with Paul Daugherty, a reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer who said, “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.”
Osaka’s agent later called the reporter a “bully.”

Following the exchange, Daugherty published a column in which he noted that “in the Zoom format, there’s no room for discussion or nuance,” adding he wasn’t sure whether Osaka understood the question or if it made her uncomfortable. But he praised her response, calling it “honest, thoughtful. . . and unlike any answer I’ve ever gotten in 34 years covering sports in Cincinnati.”

Prior to the Olympics, Osaka’s last time competing was at the French Open in May. Before the start of that tournament, the four-time major champion and world No. 2 said she would not be doing press conferences — knowing she would get fined — citing her mental health.
After a statement from all four major tournaments — the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open — that threatened further punishment, including default from the tournament, Osaka withdrew, revealing she had “suffered long bouts of depression” since winning her first major title in 2018.

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