Self-described introvert Naomi Osaka has been boycotting the media ever since she withdrew from the French Open, citing privacy and mental health concerns. Apparently those concerns were mitigated when Vogue came calling for the tennis phenom to pose for the cover of the very public Vogue Japan magazine. We should all admire her bravery.
The 23-year-old Osaka had not commented publicly or on social media since announcing her intentions to leave the French Open. Today, she conveniently broke her silence, sharing the cover of the August issue of Vogue Japan on her Instagram. Osaka, winner of four grand slams, captioned her post by saying: “Hi guys. Popping out to post this @voguejapan cover, hope you’re all doing well and staying safe.” With over two million Instagram followers, I imagine she figured this quick announcement wouldn’t garner much media buzz, allowing her to maintain a sense of privacy.
Late last month, Osaka made headlines for skipping out on a post-match French Open press conference. She was subsequently fined $15,000. Prior to the Open, the world's second-ranked women’s player announced her plans to boycott all required news conferences during the tournament. Her decision to skip media availability became a source of contention between Osaka, event officials, and the media. In her withdrawal announcement, Osaka cited her mental health as the leading factor in her decision
Opting for a highly publicized photoshoot on the heels of turning down simple media requests surely won’t sit well with other tennis pros. Earlier this month, tennis legend Boris Becker was critical of Osaka’s decision to avoid the media, telling Eurosport: “She couldn’t cope with the pressures of facing the media, especially after she loses a match … that happens frequently, and you have to deal with it. I always believed that’s part of the job,” said Becker. “Without the media, there isn’t any prize money, there isn’t any contracts and just you don’t get half the cake.”
Becker cautioned that Osaka’s career could be in danger: “That raises much bigger questions for me because if she can’t cope with the media in Paris, she can’t cope with the media in Wimbledon, she can’t cope with the media at the US Open. So I almost feel like her career is in danger because of mental health issues and now that we should take very seriously.”
Despite withdrawing from Wimbledon last week, Osaka, who was born in Japan, plans to participate in next month’s Tokyo Olympics. Media members may want to steer clear, unless another magazine cover becomes available.