Osaka, however, refused to bend, even as several other major players, including the No. 3 men’s player Rafael Nadal and No. 1 women’s player Ashleigh Barty, said they disagreed with Osaka and that speaking to the news media was part of the job. Osaka, who made more than $50 million last year in endorsements and prize money, did not appear for a media day news conference and skipped a news conference after her first-round win over Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday in straight sets.
Though she skipped her post-match news conference, Osaka did take three questions from an on-court interviewer, Fabrice Santoro, after the match and a few more queries on her way off the court from Wowow, the Japanese broadcaster with which she is under contract.
Within hours she was fined $15,000 by the French Open tournament referee. In addition, the leaders of the four Grand Slam tournaments — the Australian, French and United States Opens and Wimbledon — warned that she risked harsher penalties, including being defaulted from the tournament, if she continued not to fulfill her media obligations.
In the statement, signed by Jayne Hrdlicka, the head of Tennis Australia; Gilles Moretton, president of the France Tennis Federation; Ian Hewitt, the chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club; and Mike McNulty, chairman of the United States Tennis Association; the officials said they had reached out to Osaka to open a discussion about both her well being and concerns she had about news conferences and mental health.
Osaka, they said, refused to engage with them, leaving them with no choice but to pursue significant penalties to help ensure that Osaka did not gain an advantage over her competitors.
“We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement,” the officials stated. “As a sport there is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honor their commitments.”