Novak Djokovic has come out in support of Naomi Osaka and said that the Grand Slams’ reaction was natural since they are only looking to protect their business interests.
On Monday, Osaka withdrew from the French Open to make sure she no longer was the distraction at the claycourt Slam.
The four-time Grand Slam champion has been the focal point at this year’s French Open.
She had informed before the tournament that she would be boycotting the media for ‘mental health’ reasons. As she skipped the mandatory press conference after her first-round win, the French Open slapped a $15,000 fine on her.
“The Grand Slams are protecting themselves and their own business,” Djokovic said after beating Tennys Sandgren 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in the opening round on Tuesday.
“Of course they are going to follow the rules and they are going to make sure that you are complying. Otherwise you’ll be paying fines and getting sanctioned. It’s not surprising to me that that was their reaction.”
The Serb also hinted at the generational shift in the sport where traditional mainstream media is often eclipsed by an athlete’s own social media platforms.
Osaka has 2.3 million followers on Instagram. On Twitter, she only follows 18 people.
“It used to be the (traditional media) was the only way we can reach out to our fans, right, in the last five years or maybe 10 years, it’s not the case anymore,” said Djokovic.
“We have our own platforms, our own social media accounts through which we are able to communicate directly with fans.
“Naomi, she’s very young and she grew up with obviously with social media and ability to speak out through her channels.”
While announcing her decision to withdraw from the French Open, Osaka also said that she had been suffering from long bouts of depression and would be taking a break from the sport.
“I support her. I think she was very brave to do that. I’m really sorry that she is going through painful times and suffering mentally,” said Djokovic.
“This was, I must say, a very bold decision from her side. If she needs to take time and reflect and just recharge that’s what she needed to do, and I respect it fully. I hope that she’ll come back stronger.”