Naomi Osaka broke down in tears during a press conference at the Cincinnati Masters. The reigning US Open champion was answering questions ahead of the Ohio-based tournament, one of the last stops on the road to Flushing Meadows.
The Japanese star was fined for skipping post-match media sessions at the French Open earlier this year, and subsequently withdrew from the tournament citing mental health issues before missing Wimbledon. On Monday evening US tennis reporter Ben Rothenburg tweeted about what took place in Osaka’s first press conference since Roland Garros.
“Someone from Cincinnati Enquirer asked her a fairly aggressively toned question about how she benefits from a high-media profile but doesn’t like talking to media. Osaka tried to engage, but after her answer began crying”, he began.
“Osaka left the room, recollected herself, and returned to answer the remaining question in English.”
He added: “The topic itself wasn’t terrible, but the aggressive tone from an unfamiliar person, after Naomi had already spoken in an earlier answer about how that’s what she finds difficult in press conferences, got things going completely awry.”
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Stuart Duguid, Osaka’s agent, criticised the reporter for their comments.
“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. Really appalling behavior.
“And this insinuation that Naomi owes her off-court success to the media is a myth – don’t be so self-indulgent.”
After taking some time away from the tour to focus on her mental health, the world number two returned at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, looking to win the gold medal at her home games.
She lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony in what was a remarkable moment for the 23-year-old and her country.
Sadly she was unable to win a medal as she lost 1-6, 4-6 to Marketa Vondrousova in the third round, who went on to win the silver medal.
After the match, Osaka answered questions about dealing with the pressure of being the face of her home Olympics.