Media made us what we are, says Nadal as Osaka isolated over boycott - GulfToday

Media made us what we are, says Nadal as Osaka isolated over boycott

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning the Belgrade Open semi-final against Andrej Martin on Friday. Agence France-Presse

Rafael Nadal said Friday that without the media “we will not be the athletes that we are today” as Naomi Osaka became increasingly isolated over her decision to boycott all French Open press commitments.

Japanese star Osaka caused a stir at Roland Garros by announcing that she will refuse to carry out any media activity at the tournament, claiming she fears the effect of them on her mental health.

The four-time major winner believes the traditional post-match inquests are akin to “kicking people when they are down”.

Nadal, the 13-time French Open champion, said that even though he respected Osaka’s decision, media coverage has driven the success of the sport.

“I understand her, but for me without the press, without the people who are writing the news and achievements that we are having around the world probably we will not be the athletes that we are today,” said Nadal, a 20-time major winner.

“We won’t have the recognition that we have around the world, and we will not be that popular.”

Osaka, the world number two, risks fines of up to $20,000 for skipping news conferences at the French Open which starts on Sunday.

The 23-year-old’s closest rival and 2019 French Open winner Ashleigh Barty said carrying out media duties is part and parcel of the job.

“We know what we sign up for as professional tennis players,” the 25-year-old Australian said.

“I can’t really comment on what Naomi is feeling or her decisions she makes. At times press conferences are hard of course but it’s also not something that bothers me.

“I’ve never had problems answering questions. It’s not something that’s ever fazed me too much. And it certainly doesn’t keep me up at night what I say and hear or what you guys ask me.”

French Tennis Federation (FFT) president Gilles Moretton lambasted Osaka.

“It is a phenomenal mistake and it shows to what extent it is necessary to have strong governance,” he said Thursday.

“What is happening is not, in my opinion, acceptable. It is tennis we want to promote.”

Defending champion Iga Swiatek, who is close to Osaka, said she is happy to speak to the press.

“It’s important because not everybody is a professional athlete and not everybody knows what we are dealing with on court. It’s good to speak about that,” said the Pole who turns 20 on Monday.

However, she also believes it’s crucial to have a support system to “separate you from hate or something”.

Djokovic overcomes second-set blip to reach Belgrade final: Novak Djokovic eased into the final of the ATP tournament in Belgrade on Friday despite losing his form in the second set, beating Slovakia’s Andrej Martin as he steps up his French Open preparations.

The world number one saw off his 119th-ranked opponent 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 to set up a Saturday final against either Argentinian Federico Delbonis or another Slovakian, Alex Molcan.

It will be the Serbian’s third final of the year after his Australian Open triumph and his final loss to Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open last week, but his first on home soil since 2011.

“I’m super excited to play in front of a Serbian crowd. This is my home town. I’m always excited, but also nervous, coming out on the court and playing in front of my home crowd,” Djokovic said.

“It’s a very unique feeling. You feel a lot of pressure and expectations. But I’m just happy to fight for a trophy tomorrow.”

After racing through the first set against Martin, Djokovic uncharacteristically took his foot off the gas and was broken three times in the second set.

The 34-year-old was back to his best in the decider, though, quickly ending any thought of a surprise comeback.

“I thought I started and finished the match really well, so I’ll try to take those positive feelings into tomorrow’s final,” Djokovic said.

“I also had some letdowns in concentration towards the end of the second set, and I’ll try to correct those mistakes for tomorrow.”

Agence France-Presse

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