Sports, Tennis

Curtain up on French Open and Osaka’s code of silence

Published : 30 May 2021 08:18 PM | Updated : 30 May 2021 08:18 PM

AFP, Paris

Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka is the headline act as the curtain goes up at the French Open on Sunday but, win or lose, the world number two will be keeping her thoughts to herself.

The 23-year-old's decision to boycott all press conferences at the second Grand Slam event of the season has ironically been the hottest topic at press conferences held by other players.

Osaka, the highest earning female athlete in the world last year, opted for a code of silence in protest at what she believes is the detrimental effect of media coverage on her mental health.

The four-time major winner says news conferences can be akin to "kicking people when they're down".

French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton, however, described Osaka's move as a "phenomenal error".

The WTA is understood to have "reached out" to Osaka in an effort to break the impasse which will cost the player up to $20,000 for refusing to carry out mandatory news conferences.

On the court Sunday, Osaka, who has never got past the third round in Paris, tackles Romania's 63rd-ranked Patricia Maria Tig who won the Istanbul clay court title in 2020.

The tie, being played in bright sunshine but in front of a sparse crowd due to Covid-19 restrictions, is first up on Court Philippe Chatrier in a nod to evening prime time TV in Japan.

While Osaka refuses to speak, Greek men's world number five Stefanos Tsitsipas had plenty to offer at his pre-tournament media conference, even quoting Britain's World War II leader Winston Churchill at one stage.

Tsitsipas, who faces home player Jeremy Chardy on Sunday, is widely tipped as a potential champion should 13-time winner Rafael Nadal or world number one Novak Djokovic falter.

The 22-year-old took Djokovic to five sets in the 2020 semi-finals.