Pam Shriver, a former tennis star, blasted tennis organizers on Monday for their handling of Naomi Osaka’s boycott of press conferences and threatening her with harsh penalties.
Shriver, who won four French Open doubles titles, told the New York Post that tennis officials needed to be “more compassionate” in this situation.
“They needed to be more compassionate and supportive in the situation and deal with it behind the scenes,” the ESPN tennis commentator said. “They’ll never say it, but I’m sure they’d like to have it back. They lost one of the superstars of the game.
“Part of the statement was appropriate but I thought bringing in fines and code of conduct and possibility of default was wrong. Until you know all the facts about someone’s health, I didn’t like it.”
Osaka said before the French Open started she would be skipping interactions with the press because of her mental health. She was fined $15,000 for following through with her boycott and on Monday she chose to withdraw from the tournament. Tennis organizers threatened to default Osaka because of it.
“Things are really serious in the era we’re in with young people and their mental health,” Shriver added. “You don’t up the ante with that statement with the four majors coming together.
“I was thinking Osaka played well with everything going on. I thought maybe she realized she could find a way to go back holding press conferences and return to the more normal major routine to de-escalate the situation. I was wrong. She chose to de-escalate by doing the best thing for her. I don’t see how she could’ve competed the rest of the way because the situation was getting out of hand.”
Shriver said she didn’t think Osaka would play at Wimbledon in July.
Osaka, 23, has never won the French Open or Wimbledon during her career.
She said she was dropping out of the tournament because of her mental health situation and didn’t want to take the spotlight away from other players over her saga.