Exclusive – Daniela Hantuchova insists tennis stars have to speak to the media or not play at all

Kevin Palmer
Naomi Osaka feeling the pressure

Daniela Hantuchova believes all tennis players have an obligation to commit to media duties when they enter an event and they should not play if they are not willing to take part in all aspects of a tournament.

Speaking to Tennis365 ahead of Amazon Prime’s coverage of this year’s US Open, the former world No 7 gave us her views on one of the hottest topics in tennis, in a week that has seen Naomi Osaka’s issue with press conferences come to the fore once more.

The four-time Grand Slam winner quit the French Open in May after saying she didn’t want to attend press conferences as it had a negative impact on her mental health and she left her first media briefing in tears this week as she returned to speak to journalists while playing in Cincinnati.

Osaka’s agent Stuart Duguider agent accused Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Paul Daugherty of ‘appalling behaviour’ as he asked the Japanese star whether she needs the media to promote the other aspects of her career.

Yet Hantuchova suggests Osaka’s position is hard to justify, as she offered her views on the relationship between tennis players and the media.

Naomi Osaka masked up

“Press conferences are part of the job, that is why we are called professional athletes,” Hantuchova stated.

“When you enter a tournament, it’s like saying I will play but only if my opponent plays to my backhand. Or I don’t feel like serving today, so I’m just going to return.

“It’s a little bit disrespectful to the tournaments, I would say, especially these days when we know how much it takes to run any event after what has happened the last two years.

“The least you can do as a professional athlete in any sport is to show up for a press conference. It’s not rocket science for half and hour or an hour to talk about what you have just done and a sport you love.

“If you want to take some pressure away, probably the best way to do that is not to be on social media to start with.

“All the players have so many things to deal with off the court and it is just part of life.

“If you need, I personally wouldn’t share that with the world, but if you do, I would seek professional help and maybe go away from the tour and the sport for a little bit to get some perspective and appreciation again.

“The spotlight she (Osaka) has got on her cannot be easy, but doing the press conference is the least any player can do for the tournament.”

Hantuchova admitted she did not enjoy press conferences after she lost matches in her career, but she warned that tennis without media attention would not pay the players the huge sums they earn at the top of the game.

“If you feel like you are not ready for a press conference, it is better not to play the tournament at all,” she added.

“Without the media, we wouldn’t be earning that amount of money, it’s as simple as that.”

The US Open is available to watch on Prime Video from Monday 30th August.

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