PARIS – (AP) – Naomi Osaka skipped her post-match press conference at Roland Garros on Sunday, as promised.
That didn’t mean she was avoiding a question about her problems with success on red clay.
Osaka returned to Roland Garros after skipping the trip last time, picking up a 6-4, 7-6 (4) error-filled victory over 63rd Patricia Maria Tig at Court Philippe Chatrier on day one of the tournament of the Grand Slam.
After the 2020 French Open was pushed to an early September with a limit of 1,000 spectators per day due to the coronavirus outbreak, things were closer to normal on Sunday: It was a day in May sunny and over 5,000 fans allowed, only a week late this year due to COVID-19 issues.
While he hasn’t quite returned to his packed pre-pandemic state, Roland Garros has boiled cheers and tennis.
Other results may have been more interesting – the third consecutive defeat of three-time major champion Angelique Kerber in the first round in Paris, for example – but the actions of Osaka, ranked No.2 after her match, were interesting.
That’s because she said during the week that she would not be attending press conferences in Paris – and that she did not do a pre-tournament session with the media. What remained uncertain was whether she would participate in the superficial banter exchange with on-field “interviewers” throwing softball questions so that spectators could hear something from the game winners.
In the end, Osaka continued this conversation with former player Fabrice Santoro, who is hardly a journalist and kindly offered to help Osaka by carrying the flowers given to him by the tournament.
Santoro actually raised the subject from the surface of the event, noting that Osaka’s Grand Slam titles only arrived on hard courts.
She has won the Australian Open twice, including this year, and the US Open twice, including last year. But she never got past the third round of Roland Garros.
“I would say it’s a work in progress,” Osaka said of his clay court play. “I hope the more I play the better.”
Osaka wrote in a Twitter message on Wednesday. that she wasn’t going to participate in the standard back-and-forth with the media in Paris – the kind of thing athletes of various sports do naturally. She presented it as a mental health issue, saying that having to answer questions after a loss creates self-doubt.
Players of Grand Slam tournaments are required to attend press conferences upon request; the refusal carries fines of up to $ 20,000, not a big deal for Osaka, the world’s highest-earning female athlete thanks to endorsement deals totaling tens of millions of dollars.
Roland Garros organizers did not immediately respond to emailed questions about the Osaka press conference and whether she would be fined.
“It’s his own choice. I think she’s capable of making her own choices and obviously will always do what’s best for her, ”Tig said. “I think that’s what’s happening now. It’s her choice to do what she thinks is best for her.”
As for her impression of Osaka’s ability on clay, Tig offered this assessment: “If she wins, she will get used to it. She can play as well on clay as she can on hard courts. “
Osaka showed how on Sunday: control points with their attacking play. She scored 31 of 35 points when her first serve landed and racked up 39 winners, more than double Tig’s 18.
Osaka will then face 102nd Ana Bogdan, who swept Italian qualifier Elisabetta Cocciaretto 6-1, 6-3.
The 26th seed Kerber was beaten 6-2, 6-4 by Anhelina Kalinina, a Ukraine qualifier ranked 139th and making her tournament debut.
Roland Garros remains the only Grand Slam title that Kerber did not win: she was champion at the Australian Open and the US Open in 2016 and at Wimbledon in 2018.
Additionally, Danielle Collins, Australian Open 2019 semi-finalist and French Open 2020 quarter-final, defeated Wang Xiyu 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
On the men’s side, 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta beat Norbert Gombos 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 and 27th seed Fabio Fognini broke a racket on the way to eliminate Frenchman Gregoire Barrere 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.
Leicester reported from Paris, Dampf reported from Rome. AP Tennis writer Howard Fendrich contributed from Washington.
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