Naomi Osaka brushes Tig and the press aside in Paris

Naomi Osaka during her first round match against Patricia Maria Tig today.
Photograph courtesy of EWN.

World No. 2, Naomi Osaka from Japan, dropped a bombshell on Wednesday, when she announced on Twitter that she would not be doing any press during the French Open – read her statement below.

Fellow tour players, tournament officials, members of the press and the public were clearly taken aback with her decision, but she received support and great advice from various sources.

Rennae Stubbs (former Grand Slam Titles winner and Olympian, turned commentator and coach) – “4 someone who now works in media & knows how important quotes & sound bites are, I was also a player, with feelings! This move from Naomi is really an amazing moment 4 the media to LISTEN to these players & understand how tough it is for many of them & to do better & get better!”

Ellen DeGeneres (American talk show host, actress, comedian, writer and producer) – “Sending you so much love and support.”

Zina Garrison (Mixed Doubles Grand Slam Title winner and Olympics Doubles Gold medallist) – “Naomi Osaka has a point. But it is two side to this coin. She will be able to pay for the fine most Athletes can’t. Love you are bring awareness to mental health in sports. Come together with all sides and work on a solution now. Love your honesty.” @gamessetchatlive@Chanda_Rubin

At the tender age of 23, Osaka has already notched up four Grand Slam Singles titles, two Laureus Sports Awards, she is the world’s highest paid female athlete of all time and an investor in several businesses and organisations.

Following her first round win over Patricia Maria Tig of Romania 6-4 7-6(4) today, she received a $15,000 fine for not attending the post-match press conference. All four Grand Slam tournaments have apparently issued a joint statement saying that she could face even harsher consequences should she continue not to honour her media duties.

I have watched several post-match interviews and often wondered if the journalists actually watched the match or just looked at the score line and thumb sucked a few questions. The on-court interviews, which are carried out by ex-players and commentators are a lot more professional and interesting.

Osaka has clearly given this a lot of thought and honestly owes no-one an explanation. One can only hope that an amicable solution will be found by all concerned and that the press will be more thoughtful when asking post-match questions.

I thought this quote by Analis Bailey, a USA Today sports reporter summed it up perfectly

Quote card. Naomi Osaka pumps her fist during a second-round match in the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium in March 2021. Quote: "It's time to accept that (Naomi) Osaka is a human being before she's an athlete. Stepping away from the things that do not serve as an essential practice for your well-being, regardless of how mandatory society makes those things, is smart, not problematic." Endquote. Analis Bailey. USA TODAY Sports reporter.

Serving up some Covid-19

Since the onset of the coronavirus in December last year, the world has been brought to its knees, with all sporting events since March this year either being postponed or cancelled.

Tennis was no exception with two of the three remaining 2020 Grand Slam tournaments hanging in the balance, after Wimbledon was cancelled.

As the ATP and WTA had cancelled several events, Novak Djokovic, the World No. 1 Men’s Player arranged four Adria Exhibition Tour Events to be held in June and July.

The lineup included Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric, Marin Cilic and several other players.

With each country determining their own lockdown rules, and with Serbia’s coronavirus stats on the decline, the Serbian Government gave the go ahead and the first leg kicked off in Belgrade, Serbia.

Thousands of tennis faithful flocked to the event, where social distancing was not adhered to and only a few spectators wore masks. The players were also engaging in many social activities on and off the courts. Djokovic was grilled by the press but maintained that they had followed the Serbian Government’s instructions and that it was not his call to make.

Grigor Dimitrov drops the “bomb”

The second leg, which was played this past weekend in Zadar, Croatia, saw a seemingly unwell Grigor Dimitrov suffer an easy loss to Borna Coric and then withdraw from his second match.

Novak Djokovic and Andrey Rublev had advanced to Sunday’s final and shortly before they were expected to walk on to the court, Dimitrov announced on his Instagram account that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and asked anyone who was in contact with him to also get tested.

It was then up to Djokovic’s coach and former Grand Slam Champion, Goran Ivanisevic, to make the announcement on court which saw the final and remaining two events cancelled.

Although Dimitrov was the first person to confirm his positive coronavirus test result, Borna Coric, Viktor Troicki, Aleksandra Troicki, Novak Djokovic, Jelena Djokovic and several support staff have also tested positive for the virus.

This has cast an unfortunate shadow on the rest of the 2020 season with Djokovic receving lots of flak from around the tennis globe.

The USTA announced some stringent rules for the upcoming US Open, which is scheduled to start on 31 August. These include regular testing, residing at hotels close to airports, limited number of players and staff and no spectators.

Djokovic, Serena Williams and several other players have voiced their opinions and are considering withdrawing from the event.

The French Open organisers moved their tournament date from May to September, which means that “The King of Clay”, Rafael Nadal, will probably skip the US Open in order to prepare for a record thirteenth title on clay.

With the coronavirus cementing it’s hooks around the globe, the idea of cancelling all events for the rest of this year may not be the worst idea.

Bianca Andreescu too strong for Serena Williams in the US Open Ladies final

Tennis fans across the world were treated to an historical US Open Ladies final in the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York yesterday afternoon.

The “Veteran champion”, 37 year old Serena Williams of America, took on the “NextGen superstar”, 19 year old, Bianca Andreescu of Canada, in what turned out to be one hour and forty minutes of powerful tennis.

Williams, one of the greatest tennis players and the current Open Era record holder with 23 Grand Slam titles to her name, is still chasing the elusive 24th title to equal Margaret Court’s overall record.

Williams started this year’s US Open with an impressive 72 WTA career title wins, compared to Andreescu’s 2.

The players met for the first time, less than a month ago in the Rogers Cup (Canadian Open) final. Andreescu was leading 3-1 in the first set, when a distressed Williams was forced to retire with an upper back injury. Andreescu handled the situation with utmost respect towards the 3-time former champion and gave the tennis world a taste of what to look forward to.

Both were in great form going into yesterday’s final. Andreescu had two tough three-set matches, whilst Williams was only pushed to the limits by fellow American, Caty McNally in the second round.

With her tennis clock ticking, and in typical Big Apple style, the stars turned up hoping to witness Williams bag another title.

Williams boasted a powerhouse box, which included husband and internet entrepreneur, Alexis Ohanian, Oracene Price (Mom), Venus Williams (sister), Patrick Mouratoglou (coach) other family members, Anna Wintour (“Queen” of the Fashion world) and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

In contrast, the Andreescu box included Nicu and Maria Andreescu (Bianca’s Romanian parents) and Sylvain Bruneau (coach). One notable absentee was her now “celebrity” poodle, Coco, who has been in attendance for most of her matches at this year’s US Open.

Andreescu drew first blood by breaking Williams opening service game and then holding her own. Williams sent out a strong warning during the third game. The players exchanged shots at the net when Williams blasted a winner past her young opponent, much to the delight of the partisan New York crowd.

Andreescu continued to apply pressure, forcing a frustrated Williams to make a string of errors and with her service game failing her, she served a double fault to lose the opening set.

Andreescu continued her dominant form in the second set and soon found herself 5-1 up with a double break.

In the Williams box, Oracene Price could hardly bare to watch, looking away and shaking her head and Venus Williams, head buried in her hands, both I’m sure, praying for divine intervention.

On the other hand, Nicu Andreescu was looking relaxed and Maria Andreescu, as we have come to know her, hiding behind her dark glasses, giving nothing away.

But Williams, whose purple Nike dress was now drenched in sweat, sensed her opponent’s maiden Grand Slam title jitters and somehow clawed her way back to level the set at 5-5. The crowd was on their feet, with husband Ohanian leading the charge.

It was however too little, too late as Andreescu managed to hold serve and then belt a forehand winner past Williams for a 6-3 7-5 victory and with it, become the first Canadian tennis player to win a Grand Slam Singles title.

There were heaps of praise exchanged between the players, both during the on-court presentation and post-match interviews.

Andreescu will arise in New York today with a whole new world awaiting her.

As for Williams, she will need to find the “inner” Serena that has won her twenty three Grand Slam titles and work on that before the Australian Open in January next year.

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