Judy Murray on Naomi Osaka’s media stance: ‘There are so many potential pitfalls in the interview room’

French Open
Naomi Osaka press conference

Judy Murray is the latest to sympathise with Naomi Osaka over the pressures of media duties, saying facing the press is “an underestimated source of stress”.

World No 2 winner Osaka shocked the tennis world on Monday as she announced her withdrawal from the French Open with her decision coming on the back of threats from the Grand Slams to not only expel her from Roland Garros, but also future majors.

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The four Grand Slams’ move came after Osaka announced she would not attend press conferences in Paris in order to protect her mental health.

In a statement on social media, the 23-year-old revealed that she has suffered from bouts of depression since 2018 and has social anxiety, adding “I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media”.

Although most players have supported Osaka’s decision to pull out of the tournament to look after her mental well being, many insisted that media duties are part of the job.

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Judy, mother of three-time singles Grand Slam winner Andy and seven-times doubles Grand Slam winner Jamie, says there are plenty of dangers for athletes when it comes to dealing with the media.

“Almost all of those [athletes] who had struggled with depression or anxiety said it was brought on by being thrown into the spotlight when they reached the top,” she wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

“They were totally afraid of it, even though it is part and parcel of being a top sportsperson.

“Being afraid of the facing the press, being tripped up by a curveball question, being trolled on social media, the loss of privacy; these public-facing elements of the job are an underestimated source of stress.

“How many young people do you know who would be comfortable addressing or being questioned by a roomful of very much older strangers?

“It’s hard for any young athlete, but especially so for girls. They look up and see dozens of middle-aged men, people they can’t easily relate to and who lack experience of playing the game.

“When you step into an interview room, there are so many potential pitfalls. If you’ve won, you’re excited and in danger of feeling so relaxed and happy that something slips and gets you into trouble.

“It’s tougher, though, when you’ve lost. You’re much more likely to become upset or to bristle at a provocative question – and we all know that anger, fears, feuds and gossip make for good stories.’

Former Great Britain Fed Cup captain Judy also revealed that former world No 1 Andy also struggled at press conferences and he eventually improved after doing a PR course.

“He wanted to compete in big stadiums in front of huge crowds, not to be asked about whether his shorts were too big, or whether he should get a haircut, have a shave or smile more often,” the Scot added.

“She (Osaka) is one of a very exciting batch of young female players and I am a big fan of hers. I hope with all my heart that she can find a way of feeling more at home in this sport.

“It would be terrible if we reached the point where we lost her to the game.”

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