Naomi Osaka, last year’s top-ranked junior player, announced that she was withdrawing from the women’s portion of the French Open tournament just over six weeks before the event starts in Paris. The 18-year-old claimed that she was injured and unable to compete. Osaka, who beat Serena Williams to win the U.S. Open junior singles title back in 2014, was defeated in the quarterfinals of the 2017 WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai last month. She said she pulled out of the French Open due to “lower back stiffness.”
Back in an interview with Women’s Tennis Rankings, she admitted she had been “lucky” in her minor successes, but she also acknowledged that her relationship with the media has sometimes had its issues.
In addition to citing back pain, Osaka also revealed that she no longer follows the media the way she used to, after she was criticized in the press for putting in a “sorry” gesture following an exchange with a couple of photographers. As ESPN notes, Osaka had reportedly made an apology after the fans had heckled her for taking a selfie with a tennis player in the crowd rather than signing autographs. Osaka felt the gesture was unjustified because the photos were of her taking selfies in the first place.
In her interview with WRS, Osaka described the decision to pull out of the French Open as “difficult.”
When you’re young, it can be very hard sometimes to watch other kids’ games or to be in the crowd and people recognize you and you get excited and there are people you don’t know at the match and they may start comments. It’s hard because you want to be able to respond, but you also have to be respectful and know that it’s not about you, it’s about other people. The way to avoid that is to be yourself. When you’re young, it’s very difficult to look in the mirror and look at yourself and feel like you’re okay, like you feel good, like you have your confidence. It’s hard to change something that has been done when you’re not even like 80 percent of the way there. When you’re not even there yet, it’s hard. … I always do it in front of cameras now, too. Even at the matches. It’s not easy to leave the crowd for that, because it’s also embarrassing and it can create problems. It’s not me speaking up for the first time, but I do it more and more often. When I’m there in public things, I have to be more careful and be myself.
Tennis media personality Pam Shriver was quoted by ESPN as wondering whether Osaka had realized how tough it would be to be No. 1. As with many tennis players, King Osaka’s rather casual demeanor as well as her tendency to begin junior-level tennis ahead of her older sisters have led to reports that she’s sometimes less than polished in front of the media. Yet she seems to have a positive outlook, believing it’s important for young women to “be yourself.”
Naomi mentioned to me she was taking some criticism for making a ‘sorry’ gesture when fans heckled her in Hong Kong a few weeks ago. I knew that was the approach that she would take as a pro. That’s who she is. — Pam Shriver (@PamShriver) July 31, 2017
While the French Open is currently known for its financial constraints, the tournament is set to lose its champion — rising American player Madison Keys — due to her own injury. While Osaka’s behavior may be often questioned by the press, it seems that the Japanese-American isn’t unwilling to put herself out there.
Read the full story at ESPN.
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