Naomi Osaka, four-time Grand Slam champion, Olympian and the No. 2 player in the world, has been open about her fraught relationship with press. In a highly publicized move in May 2021, she opted to withdraw from the conversations with media following the French Open. She was both scrutinized and fined. After deciding to exit the match in general, she has opted out of all press since, making her return on August 16 ahead of the Western & Southern Open in Ohio.
After one question in particular, Osaka, 23, began to cry and momentarily walked away from the table.
“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,” Paul Daugherty, a columnist for the Cincinnati Inquirer, began. “I guess my question is, how do you balance the two and also do you have anything you’d like to share with us about what you did say to Simone Biles?”
Daugherty’s initial remark was not unlike the thought process of Megyn Kelly, who has been accused of being racist, when she responded to comments on Osaka’s aversion to press after appearing on the historic July cover of Sports Illustrated.
“Since saying she’s too introverted to talk to the media after tennis matches, Naomi Osaka has launched a reality show, a Barbie, and now is on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue,” Republican commentator Clay Travis wrote on Twitter. Kelly agreed, writing, “Let’s not forget the cover of (& interview in) Vogue Japan and Time Mag!”
In a statement to Ben Rothenburg, Stuart Duguid, Osaka’s agent, responded to Daugherty’s comment, saying, “Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior.” He also referred to the journalist as a “bully.”
After taking a moment away from the table, Osaka returned to finish answering questions.