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Naomi Osaka Could be Kicked Out of Roland Garros Tennis 2021

By Alix Ramsay

Naomi Osaka’s vow of silence could cost her place in the French Open. The Japanese refused to take part in her mandatory pre-tournament press conference and has said that she will not be speaking to the media during the French Open.

She made the announcement on social media on Wednesday and, since then, the French Tennis Federation and the other three grand slam tournament organisers have tried to contact her – all to no avail. Now the grand slams have had enough.

She has been fined $15,000 for missing her first presser and the warning is stark and plain: there are bigger sanctions waiting for her down the line if she continues to dodge her commitments and refuses to explain herself to the tournaments.

In a statement released on Sunday on behalf of Roland Garros, Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the US Open, it was made clear that default and future suspension were the ultimate penalties.

The statement read: “Naomi Osaka announced last Wednesday on social media that she would not participate in the mandatory media interviews at Roland-Garros 2021. Following this announcement, the Roland-Garros teams asked her to reconsider her position and tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue and what might be done to address it on site.

“Following the lack of engagement by Naomi Osaka, the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open jointly wrote to her to check on her well-being and offer support, underline their commitment to all athletes’ well-being and suggest dialog on the issues.  She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players.  

“Naomi Osaka today chose not to honour her contractual media obligations. The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the Code of Conduct. 

“We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences.  As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament (Code of Conduct article III T.) and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions (Code of Conduct article IV A.3.).”

To the casual observer, such draconian measures may seem a little heavy handed – after all, it’s just a 23-year-old player who doesn’t fancy talking to journalists after her matches. What’s the big deal? But as the other players in Paris have made clear over the past few days, they respect Osaka’s right to stay silent but none of them want – or feel the need – to follow suit.

The grand slams are not penalising Osaka for being awkward; they are penalising her because her refusal to cooperate comes down to a matter of responsibility to the sport and fairness to the other players.

The statement went on: “A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves. These interactions allow both the players and the media to share their perspective and for the players to tell their story. The facilitation of media to a broad array of channels, both traditional and digital, is a major contributor to the development and growth of our sport and the fan base of individual players.

“We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement.  As a sport there is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honour their commitments.”

Osaka’s silence is making an awful lot of noise in the corridors of Roland Garros – and none of it is good.