Novak Djokovic shares his views on Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from French Open and Grand Slams’ initial response

Shahida Jacobs
Novak Djokovic looking ahead

Novak Djokovic has hailed Naomi Osaka as “brave” and “bold” after she withdrew from the French Open while he also shared his views on the way the four Grand Slams initially dealt with the Japanese star’s media boycott.

Ahead of this year’s French Open, world No 2 Osaka’s announcement that she would not partake in press conferences at Roland Garros and after the four-time Grand Slam winner failed to turn up for her media duties after her first-round win, it resulted in a fine, which was expected.

However, the four Grand Slams went a step further as they threatened to not only expel her from the event, but also warned that repeat violations would attract tougher sanctions including future Grand Slam suspensions.

Osaka then announced her withdrawal from the clay-court major and on Tuesday the four Grand Slams issued another joint statement offering support to the 23-year-old.

TV commentator and doubles great winner Pam Shriver felt the tournaments went about things the wrong way, saying: “They needed to be more compassionate and supportive in the situation.”

Top TV commentator hits out at Grand Slams for not being ‘more supportive’ towards Naomi Osaka

Djokovic was asked for his thoughts on the way the four Grand Slams dealt with things and replied: “The Grand Slams are protecting themselves and their own business and they are going to follow the rules and they are going to make sure that you are complying otherwise you will be paying fines or getting sanctioned.

“It is not surprising to me that that was their reaction because we used to this environment and this principles of us doing interviews after every match and getting to answer questions that are quite similar.

“But it is part of our sport, it is part of what we do, the media is important without a doubt. It is allowing us to have the platform to communicate with the fans, but in a more traditional way. It used to be the only way how we could reach out to our fans.

“In the last five years or 10 years it is not the case anymore as we have our own platforms our own social media accounts through which we are able to communicate directly with fans.”

The 18-time Grand Slam winner also offered plenty of support to Osaka.

“She is very young and she grew up with social media and ability to speak out through her channels,” he said. “I can understand her very well, and I emphasise with her because I was on the wrong edge of the sword in my career many times [with the] media (smiling). I know how it feels.

“I support her. I think she was very brave to do that. I’m really sorry that she is going through painful times and suffering mentally, is what I have heard. I haven’t spoken to her, but it seems like she has been struggling. I wish her all the best, I hope she recovers. She is an important player, brand and person for our sport. So we need to have her back.

“This was, I must say, a very bold decision from her side.

“If she needs to take time and reflect and just recharge that’s what she needed to do, and I respect it fully. I hope that she’ll come back stronger.”

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