After Naomi Osaka withdrew from the 2021 French Open amidst controversy caused by her decision to skip mandatory post-match news conferences, tennis fans wondered when they might see the four-time Grand Slam champ again.
The All England Club, host of Wimbledon, which begins in less than two weeks, clearly doesn’t want to make the same mistake as Roland-Garros and miss out on having Osaka in the women’s draw later this month. According to the club’s chief executive, Sally Bolton, organizers for the upcoming Grand Slam have reached out to the 23-year-old’s team about the tournament’s media operations.
“We have spoken to her [Osaka’s] team in the last few weeks,” Bolton told the BBC. “So yes, we’re certainly remaining engaged with Naomi’s team, as we are with all players.
“We have started a consultation. Of course, that consultation needs to include not just the players, but the media and all of those engaged in that space.”
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On Wednesday, Wimbledon director Jamie Baker shared that the tournament was “completely open for any discussions” with Osaka about media appearances. The news marks a sharp departure from the message that the Grand Slam tournaments sent to the 23-year-old during the French Open, when they threatened increased fines or possible defaults from events if she continued to miss press conferences.
Osaka withdrew from this month’s tournament at Roland-Garros and revealed that she had struggled with anxiety and depression since winning her first Grand Slam title in 2018. She had hoped that her media boycott could lead to change in the way that tennis media was conducted, but left the event, saying that she didn’t want to be a distraction.
The former world No. 1 also shared that she planned to take some time away from competitive tennis ahead of a busy summer.
“When the time is right, I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans,” Osaka wrote in her statement on Twitter when announcing her withdrawal from the French Open.
We’ll have to wait and see if Osaka decides to make her return later this month at Wimbledon. Simply put, tennis is more exciting when she’s out there, so hopefully she can reach a compromise with the tournament’s organizers.