PARIS – French Open organizers have defended their “pragmatic” approach to the saga involving four-time career Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka.
They said Sunday that they had tried to initiate a dialogue with the Japanese player on several occasions before she decided to withdraw from the tournament to regain her sanity.
“We did the right thing,” French Tennis Federation (FFT) president Gilles Moretton hammered in a press conference on the final day of the tournament.
Osaka withdrew from the French Open and was fined $15,000 for skipping a press conference after her first round win.
She mentioned experiencing episodes of anxiety before meeting with members of the media, and revealed that she has gone through several phases of depression in recent years.
What we did with the other Grand Slams – we had to do it,” said Moretton. We made the right decision, even if you think we should have kept our mouths shut … about Naomi. ”
Amelie Oudea-Castera, the TFF’s executive director, said organizers “really tried to engage with Naomi in a number of different ways, including at the edge of the practice courts, and in writing.”
Oudea-Castera said organizers wrote to the Japanese woman privately before the public release of the four Grand Slam tournaments, handing out a fine and warning her that further sanctions could be imposed if she stayed the course by not attending press conferences.
Oudea-Castera added that the organizers had only touched on the topic of rules with Osaka.
Tennis players are obliged to participate in press conferences, if instructed to do so. They can be fined up to $20,000 for not attending.
If you noticed, the $15,000 fine is not the maximum amount (for this type of misconduct),” said Oudea-Castera. That was by design. We wanted to limit it to $15,000 because we wanted to send a message. We wanted to take a gradual approach, if she continues to not meet her obligations. ”
Oudea-Castera admitted, however, that tennis leaders need to “do more” to help players who are affected by mental health issues, and she added that the four major tournaments “will develop a joint initiative on this issue.”
Osaka has previously said she wants to take a break from her sport, and Moretton said former French tennis player Nathalie Dechy has received favorable news from the 23-year-old Japanese, who is world No. 2.
“That’s the most important thing,” Moretton said.