Tennis legend Boris Becker had some tough words for Naomi Osaka at the start of Wimbledon last week after she announced she would skip the tournament.
“If you can’t deal with the media, it’s very difficult to be a professional tennis player,” Becker told the paper. “The tour isn’t possible without the press. And it’s difficult to make your prize money, or money for your sponsors without the media. It’s not something we look forward to. But it’s part of the job. You have to learn to deal with it.”
Osaka raised eyebrows when she declined to speak with the media at the French Open. She eventually withdrew after being threatened with default and fines. She then announced she would take a break from the spotlight and later committed to focusing on the Olympics, where she would represent Japan.
Becker predicted in an interview with The Times of UK on Saturday she would have a tough time if she can’t face the media pressure.
Becker, who won three times at Wimbledon and had six major titles overall during his career, also questioned Osaka over her stance that the pressure was causing her trouble.
“Is that really pressure? Isn’t it pressure when you don’t have food on the table? When you’ve got to feed your family and you don’t have a job? When you have a life-changing injury? Isn’t that more pressure?” he asked rhetorically.
“You’re 23, you’re healthy, you’re wealthy, your family is good. Where’s the f—king pressure?”
Osaka announced her decision to withdraw from the French Open on May 31.
She explained in a statement that she could have explained herself better and decided she was going to take a break from tennis and social media.
“This isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago. I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” Osaka wrote.
“More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dulls my social anxiety.”
Osaka apologized to the “cool journalists” who she “may have hurt,” but explained that she’s not a “natural public speaker” and experiences intense anxiety addressing the media. “I get really nervous and find it stressful to always engage and give you the best answers I can.”
“So here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences. I announced it pre-emptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that. I wrote privately to the tournament apologizing and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense. I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the playoffs, press and fans.”
Osaka concluded her statement with “Anyways hope you are all doing well and staying safe, I love you guys I’ll see you when I see you.”
She announced earlier this month she would take “personal time” to gear up for the Olympics.
She later broke her social media silence to tweet she was on the cover of Vogue Japan.