Naomi Osaka broke down during the pre-tournament press conference at the Cincinnati WTA event and had to leave the room for a while.
Playing her first tournament since the Tokyo Olympics, Osaka answered questions on mental health and the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Osaka, whose father is a Haitian, had promised that she would donate her entire prize money from Cincinnati to the relief efforts in the Caribbean country.
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It was Osaka’s first press conference on the tour since her media boycott during the French Open. Osaka had also skipped Wimbledon.
Naomi Osaka bursts into tears and exits podium while addressing how she has felt since withdrawing from French Open. pic.twitter.com/xBn8XRF8FB
— The Shadow League (@ShadowLeague) August 16, 2021
Things got edgy when Paul Daugherty, a sports columnist for The Cincinnati Enquirer, asked her a question about courting the media outside the press conference format. This is how the dialogue went:
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Daugherty: You are 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. I guess my question is, How do you balance the two?
Osaka: When you say I’m not crazy about dealing with you guys, what does that refer to?
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Daugherty: Well, you’ve said you don’t especially like the news conference format, yet that seems to be obviously the most widely used means of communicating to the media and through the media to the public.
Osaka: I would say the occasion, like, when to do the press conferences, is what I feel is the most difficult
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She declined an opportunity from the news conference moderator to move on to the next question and asked Daugherty to repeat his query.
Osaka: I can only speak for myself. But ever since I was younger I have had a lot of media interest on me, and I think it’s because of my background, as well as how I play, because in the first place I’m a tennis player. That’s why a lot of people are interested in me, so I would say in that regards I am quite different to a lot of people. And I can’t really help that there are some things that I tweet or some things that I say that kind of create a lot of news articles or things like that….I’m not really sure how to balance the two and am figuring it out at the same time as you are.
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She broke down in tears after the answer and had to take a break from the media interaction. Though Osaka returned and answered the remaining queries her agent accused Daugherty of being a “bully”.
Her agent, Stuart Duguid, stated, “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.”
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