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Naomi Osaka’s agent, Stuart Duguid, accused a reporter of being a “bully” after the four-time grand slam champion broke down in tears at a press conference at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati on Monday.
Osaka, who was attending her first WTA press conference since withdrawing from the French Open in June, answered several questions before Paul Daugherty, from The Cincinnati Enquirer, asked: “You’re not crazy about dealing with us, especially in this format, yet you have a lot of outside interests that are served by having a media platform, I guess my question, how do you balance the two and do you have anything you would like to share with us about what you did say to Simone Biles?”
Osaka, who received a bye into the tournament’s second round, initially replied: “When you say I’m not crazy about dealing with you guys, what does that refer to?”
To which Daugherty added: “You’ve said you don’t especially like the press conference format, yet that seems to be obviously the most widely-used means of communicating to the media and through the media to the public.”
In response, Osaka said: “Ever since I was young, I have had a lot of media interest on me, and I think it’s because of my background as well as how I play. I’m a tennis player. That’s why a lot of people are interested in me.
“I would say in that regard I’m quite different to a lot of people, and I can’t really help that there are some things that I tweet or some things that I say that kind of create a lot of news articles or things like that, and I know it’s because I have won a couple of Grand Slams and I have done a lot of press conferences that these things happen.
“But I would also say, I’m not really sure how to balance the two. I’m figuring it out at the same time as you are, I would say.”
Osaka appeared to lower her cap and wipe away tears after giving her answer and briefly left the press conference room before returning to take further questions.
Duguid, Osaka’s long-time agent, said the reporter in question had behaved “appallingly” and attempted to intimidate the world No 2.
“The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now. Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behaviour,” Duguid said.
“And this insinuation that Naomi owes her off-court success to the media is a myth – don’t be so self-indulgent.”
After her withdrawal from the French Open, Osaka skipped Wimbledon this summer to prioritise her mental health and, although she competed at the Olympics, this is her first event back on the WTA Tour.
She has pledged to donate her prize money from the Western & Southern Open to support earthquake relief efforts in Haiti after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the country on Saturday, with at least 1,419 people known to have died.â Her father is from the Caribbean country.
“For Haiti, I feel like I’m not really doing that much,” she said. “I could do more, and I’m trying to figure out what I can do and what exactly or where exactly to put my energy into.
“The prize money thing is sort of like the first thing that I thought of that I could do that would raise the most awareness. I guess that is the reason why I announced it. It’s really scary, because like I see the news every day, and honestly the earthquake was kind of close to, you know, my parents’ school there, so I’m honestly not really sure how that’s doing and I haven’t seen any pictures or video of it yet.”