Naomi Osaka’s French Open Press Conference Boycott A “Phenomenal Error”, Says French Tennis Federation President

Naomi Osaka’s decision to boycott press conferences at Roland Garros was blasted as a “phenomenal error” by the head of French tennis on Thursday who said the Japanese star’s move was “unacceptable”. World number two Osaka said she will not take part in any media duties at the French Open which starts on Sunday. The 23-year-old said she was concerned by the effect of news conferences on her mental health which she likened to “kicking a person while they’re down”.

However, French Tennis Federation (FFT) president Gilles Moretton lambasted Osaka, a four-time major winner.

“It is a phenomenal error and it shows to what extent it is necessary to have strong governance,” he said.

“What is happening is not, in my opinion, acceptable. It is tennis we want to promote.”

Osaka will likely be fined up to $20,000 for every news conference she skips.

However, that will cause little financial impact — in 2020, she made $37 million, more than any other female athlete.

Osaka said she will donate any fines to mental health charities.

“I have often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one,” Osaka said on Twitter.

“We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I am not going to subject myself to people who doubt me.”

Under tennis tournament rules, all players are required to hold press conferences after each match.

They also perform media duties before a tournament.

Osaka regularly packs out media rooms because of her standing in the sport and her charisma.

She fields questions in Japanese and English and is regarded as one of the world’s most marketable stars.

She added on Wednesday: “I believe the whole situation (of news conferences) is kicking a person while they are down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it.”

French Open tournament director Guy Forget said he was stunned by Osaka’s decision which he found at odds with a tournament still facing organisational challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic.

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“As the tournament progresses, we will see how she behaves. I don’t know what her attitude will be in the coming days, but it doesn’t send a very positive message,” said Forget.

Osaka has yet to get beyond the third round at Roland Garros.

Roger Federer “Pumped Up” As He Targets Ninth Wimbledon Crown

Roger Federer says he is “excited” and “pumped up” as he targets a ninth Wimbledon title — a far cry from the disgruntled figure who exited Halle in the second round earlier this month. The 39-year-old Swiss accepted the manner of his 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 defeat by Felix Auger-Aliassime both on and off the court had fallen short of the high standards he has set over the past two decades. “I mean, I had a mental moment where I was just, you know, not happy with how things were going in the match,” Federer said at his pre-Wimbledon press conference on Saturday.

“I mean, that feeling when I started not liking — when things derail.

“It was definitely also there’s ways to lose and a standard I set for myself how I go about things.

“The good thing now looking back is I know it will not happen here because I’m ready, I’m excited, I’m pumped up.”

Seeded six and with just eight tour matches under his belt this year he will face a tough first round opponent in France’s Adrian Mannarino, who has reached the Last 16 at Wimbledon on three occasions.

Federer, though, insists that having got used to the Wimbledon bubble — due to the coronavirus pandemic — both in the hotel and at the All England Club he is raring to go.

He had a hit out on the Wimbledon courts with two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray on Friday — something he said they had not done for the best part of 15 years.

He says he has taken whatever positives he can out of the Halle situation — a tournament he had won 10 times and used as his annual prep for Wimbledon.

“I think I got to take the positives out of these last few weeks that I’m actually here at Wimbledon right now and I have a chance,” he said.

“I know if I get rolling, I get into the second week, which is the goal here right now, that I get stronger and stronger as every match goes by, I believe it’s very much possible.

“I come here feeling mentally strong rather with the last set I played in Halle, which was clearly not the standard I like.”

– ‘Be more selective’ —
Federer has like great rivals Murray and to a lesser extent Rafael Nadal — both younger than him but in their mid 30’s — struggled with fitness issues.

He withdrew from the French Open — where he had been drawn in the same half as Novak Djokovic and Nadal — before his fourth round match.

This was to give himself extra rest after two operations on his right knee in 2020 and a year of rehab.

He says he is uncertain what his programme for the rest of the year will be as so much hangs on Wimbledon and how he performs.

He would love to go to the Olympics in Tokyo — unlike Murray and Nadal he has yet to win the singles title although he did take Olympic gold in the doubles in 2008 — but it is not a done deal.

“My feeling is I would like to go to the Olympics,” he said.

“I would like to play as many tournaments as possible.

“But I think we decided now let’s just get through Wimbledon, sit down as a team, and then decide where we go from there.”

Federer — who admitted he missed the routine of setting the family up in a house close to Wimbledon and seeing his children run around — said the ageing process made it tougher to make such calls.

“I wish I could tell you more,” he said.

“In previous years it was definitely easier.

“At the moment things are not as simple as in the past.

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“With age you have to be more selective.

“You can’t play it all.”

French Open: Five Roger Federer Moments At Roland Garros

Roger Federer is set to pull out of what is probably his final French Open on Sunday to rest up before Wimbledon. Two months shy of his 40th birthday, Federer, the 2009 champion, and probably taking part in his last Roland Garros, reached the second week for the 15th time. His knife-edge 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win over 59th-ranked Dominik Koepfer took place in Court Philippe Chatrier devoid of fans and atmosphere due to a government-enforced Covid-19 curfew.

Roger Federer, who underwent two knee surgeries last year and is playing just his third event since the 2020 Australian Open, is scheduled to face Italy’s Matteo Berrettini on Monday.

“I don’t know if I am going to play,” said Federer whose 3hr 35min tie ended just before 12:45 on Sunday morning.

“I have to decide whether or not to continue playing. Is it too risky to keep putting pressure on the knee? Is it a good time to rest?”

AFP Sport looks at five of his best moments at Roland Garros since his debut in 1999.

2009 Final v Robin Soderling

With Rafael Nadal having been knocked out of the tournament by Soderling in the fourth round in what was the Spaniard’s first ever defeat in Paris, the path was clear for Federer to complete the career Grand Slam.

His 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 victory gave Federer a 14th major title and allowed him to become just the third man to complete the sweep of all four majors.

It was an emotional triumph for a man who had lost to Nadal in the previous three finals at Roland Garros.

2009 Fourth round v Tommy Haas

The Swiss star almost never made it to the final having to come from two sets down to beat Germany’s Haas, a close friend, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.

“Tommy played a great match, I struggled to get into the encounter,” said Federer who crucially had saved a break point at 3-4 down in the third set with a crunching, nerveless forehand winner.

Haas admitted: “You just have to tip your hat and say when you go for it and you’re rewarded like that, that’s too good.”

2011 Semi-final v Novak Djokovic

Federer ended Djokovic’s 43-match winning run and set up another meeting with Nadal in the final.

Federer, by now on 16 majors, won 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6.

“I was just trying to put in a good match and get to the French Open final, which I’m obviously happy I was able to do. It almost feels like I’ve won the tournament, which is not the case,” said Federer.

The match finished in the gloom at almost 9:45pm.

“I think I played well but he played really well at the important moments. I congratulate him for a great performance. We were, I think, part of a very good match,” said Djokovic.

2009 Semi-final v Juan Martin del Potro

Proving that his path to the 2009 title was anything but easy, Federer again needed five sets to defeat giant Argentine Del Potro 3-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.

“I am a bit lucky but I fought – Juan Martin was playing really well,” said Federer.

For Del Potro, it was a sixth loss in six meetings with Federer although he was to gain revenge later that year when he defeated the Swiss for his one and only major win at the US Open.

“The match escaped me. I really wanted to be in that final, and now I’m going to have to watch it on TV,” said Del Potro.

2006 Final v Rafael Nadal

Not a classic, but this was the first final between the two in Paris. Nadal defended his title with a 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 win as he ended Federer’s hopes of joining Don Budge and Rod Laver as the only men to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.

“This is a fantastic victory and an incredible moment in my career,” said Nadal after notching up a 60th consecutive win on clay.

“Federer is the best player in history, no other player has ever had such quality.”

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Federer hailed the Spaniard.

“He truly deserves to win,” he said.

“Got Married”: Rafael Nadal’s Latest Facebook Update Sends Fans Into A Frenzy

Rafael Nadal on Monday posted a “Got Married” update on Facebook that left fans both delighted and confused. While some rejoiced at ‘Rafa’ tying the knot, others commented inquiring whether he had already been married in 2019. Indeed, Nadal had married long-time partner Xisca Perello in October 2019. A late update on Facebook got fans thinking as they inundated Nadal’s post with comments and jokes. “Congratulations!!! Rafa and wife!!! I thought that you two were already married! Guess not…….happy for you from Mount Shasta California!!” commented a fan.

“How many hearts were broken with this bombshell. this happened in 2019 right?” another one commented.

Many others were confused at this update.

“Congratulations but confused. His wiki page says he got married in October 2019,” wrote one.

“Congratulations but coudn’t imagine he’d be getting married in the middle of the French open,” wrote another.

Nadal has moved into the fourth round of Roland Garros 2021, and he is chasing a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam.

The Spaniard is level with Swiss superstar Roger Federer on 20 Grand Slam titles, 13 of which are French Open wins.

A fan saw this as an opportunity to cheer for their favourite – Federer.

“Congratulations Rafa. Withdraw from Roland Garros and let Roger win,” they wrote.

Unfortunately for them, Federer withdrew from the tournament on Sunday.

Others were still in denial, vehemently insisting that Nadal had been married since 2019.

“No he didn’t. It was ages ago now,” commented one.

Another said: “This can’t be right as I remember seeing the photos of their 2019 wedding!”

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“A Special Congratulations To All of You Who Know: Rafael Nadal has been married to Xisca Perello since October 2019….” said a fan, as the truth was out in the open.

An update in the “About” section on Nadal’s Facebook page says “Married since October 2019”.

French Open: Novak Djokovic To Face Teen Lorenzo Musetti In Last 16, Elina Svitolina Crashes Out

Novak Djokovic moved effortlessly into the French Open fourth round for the 12th successive year on Saturday, setting up an intriguing duel against Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti as Elina Svitolina crashed out, leaving just three of the women’s top 10 seeds in the tournament. World number one Djokovic, the champion in Paris in 2016 and chasing a 19th Grand Slam title, brushed aside 93rd-ranked Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-1, 6-4, 6-1. “If you look at it, it may seem like an easy win but that’s not the case,” said Djokovic.

“The conditions were different, the bounce was lower so you have to adapt but that’s part of the job.”

Djokovic is bidding to be the first man in more than half a century to win all four majors on multiple occasions.

Next up for the Serb is 19-year-old Musetti after the 76th-ranked Italian fired 50 winners past compatriot Marco Cecchinato in a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory.

He becomes just the sixth man since 2000 to make the fourth round of a Slam on debut.

“I have practised with Novak so I know a little bit about his game. There will be more tension, but it’s what I have been working for since childhood,” said Musetti. “Now it’s reality.”

Fellow Italian teen Jannik Sinner, a quarter-finalist in 2020, also made it to the second week, easing past Sweden’s Mikael Ymer 6-1, 7-5, 6-3.

Nadal, seeded three this year and chasing a 14th French Open and record 21st Grand Slam, faces fellow left-hander Cameron Norrie.

The 25-year-old Norrie, ranked 40, is enjoying a breakout season on clay, reaching the finals in Estoril and Lyon.

He has played Nadal twice already this season, losing at the Australian Open and Barcelona on clay where the Spaniard won in straight sets for the loss of just five games.

“I’ve learned that he’s actually a human being,” said Norrie.

Roger Federer, locked on 20 majors with Nadal, is aiming to reach the round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the 68th time.

The 39-year-old Swiss, who won his only French Open title in 2009, tackles Germany’s 59th-ranked Dominik Koepfer in the evening session.

Three top 10 women left

Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic reached the last 16 for the second successive year with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over three-time quarter-finalist Svitolina.

World number 33 Krejcikova goes on to face former US Open champion Sloane Stephens for a place in the quarter-finals.

“I am super happy, most of my shots were amazing,” said the Czech who is on an eight-match winning streak after capturing a maiden singles title in Strasbourg last week.

Stephens, the 2018 runner-up in Paris, defeated Czech 18th seed Karolina Muchova 6-3, 7-5.

“Obviously one of my favourite tournaments of the year, so peaking here has always been really important,” said Stephens after making the last 16 for the seventh time.

Fourth seed Sofia Kenin, the runner-up in 2020 and the highest seed left, came back to beat fellow American Jessica Pegula 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

The top three seeds, Ashleigh Barty, Naomi Osaka and Aryna Sabalenka all failed to get beyond the third round.

In all, only four of the top 10 made the third round, the fewest in 20 years.

Serena Williams, seeded seventh, plays her last 16 match on Sunday.

Eighth seed and defending champion Iga Swiatek has made the third round for the loss of just seven games.

On Saturday, she takes on Estonia’s 30th-seeded Anett Kontaveit.

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Coco Gauff, seeded 24, faces 13th-seeded Jennifer Brady who was a shock finalist at the Australian Open this year.

Seventeen-year-old Gauff is the youngest player in the last 32 since 16-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito in 2009.

Australian Open: Angry Row Mars All-Italian Classic Between Fabio Fognini And Salvatore Caruso

Fabio Fognini and Salvatore Caruso had to be separated by an official during a furious argument after their five-set classic at the Australian Open on Thursday. Fognini, the 16th seed, prevailed 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (14/12) in nearly four hours after a fierce battle on John Cain Arena. But rather than the traditional polite congratulations, the pair argued furiously in Italian for several minutes, gesturing and wagging their fingers. Translations of the spat suggested firebrand Fognini told Caruso — in colourful language — that he had been lucky with some close calls, which Caruso took exception to. Eventually the court supervisor had to step between the pair and tell them to cool off, with Caruso walking away and bowing to the crowd as he exited. Fognini, who battled back from 1-5 down in the deciding tiebreak, didn’t want to talk about the incident afterwards.

“We are good friends,” he said, adding that what was said on court “stays on court”.

“I have nothing to say about that question anymore,” he added.

Pressed on whether he had spoken to Caruso since the match ended, he replied: “Not yet. We’re going to speak, don’t worry.

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“I’ll let you know. If you give me your phone, I’ll text you.”

The angry ending capped a compelling and seesawing second-round match, with Fognini’s reward a clash with Australian 21st seed Alex De Minaur.

French Open: Serena Williams “Feels For” Naomi Osaka, Has Also Experienced “Very Difficult” Press Conferences

Serena Williams said she “feels for” Naomi Osaka and has also experienced “very difficult” press conferences in her career after her rival’s shock withdrawal from the French Open on Monday. Japanese star Osaka pulled out of the tournament after being threatened with disqualification for declining to speak to the media, saying she suffers from “bouts of depression”. Serena, who famously lost to Osaka in the controversial 2018 US Open final, said she sympathises with Osaka. “The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like,” said the 39-year-old, after her first-round 7-6 (8/6), 6-2 win over Irina-Camelia Begu in the first ever night match at Roland Garros.

“We have different personalities, and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin.

“Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to…

“I’ve been where I’ve been very difficult to walk in (to press conferences) in those moments. But, you know, it made me stronger.”

Serena, seeded seventh this year, saved two set points in a first-set tie-break as she started her latest bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title.

Serena, who has lost four major finals since her last Slam success at the 2017 Australian Open, will take on Begu’s compatriot Mihaela Buzarnescu in the second round.

“It wasn’t easy in that first set. I was up and I felt like I had some opportunities. She’s a really good player, she’s had some really good wins so I was really happy I was able to get that first set and the match,” said the three-time Roland Garros champion.

The first official night match under the lights on Court Philippe Chatrier was played behind closed doors due to a 9pm curfew imposed by the French government due to Covid-19.

Serena, who had suffered early defeats in both Roma and Parma earlier this month, improved as the match progressed.

Begu fought back from 5-2 down in the opening set, but failed to serve it out when leading 6-5 and then saw two set points come and go when leading the breaker 6-4.

Serena needed only one opportunity, driving a forehand volley into the corner to take control.

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The former world number one strengthened her grip on the tie by breaking 74th-ranked Begu in the first game of the second set.

She moved through the gears on her own serve from there and broke again in the seventh game before wrapping up victory after an hour and 42 minutes.

Daniil Medvedev Backs Roger Federer To Win Wimbledon When “He’s 50”

Colourful Russian world number two Daniil Medvedev on Sunday backed Roger Federer to be winning Wimbledon “at 50” after the Swiss veteran pulled out of the French Open. Federer, the 20-time major winner, withdrew from the tournament despite having already reached the last 16. “We all know that a Grand Slam is still a goal for him. I think Wimbledon always is even when he will be 50 years old,” said Medvedev. “It’s a great chance for him. He wants to do his best to prepare.” Federer, who turns 40 in two months’ time, said he was withdrawing from Roland Garros, opting to focus on his primary objective of winning a ninth Wimbledon title.

“After two knee surgeries and over a year of rehabilitation it’s important that I listen to my body and make sure I don’t push myself too quickly on my road to recovery,” he said.

Federer battled over three and a half hours until 12:45 Sunday morning to reach the last 16 with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win over 59th-ranked Dominik Koepfer.

He was due back on court on Monday to tackle Matteo Berrettini for a place in the quarter-finals.

Medvedev said those criticising Federer for withdrawing after the match and not before which would have allowed a fit Koepfer to progress were mistaken.

“If Koepfer wants to be in the next round, sorry, he needed to beat Roger,” said Medevedev.

“It doesn’t matter if he retires after. That’s how tennis is, to be in the next round, you need to beat your opponent.”

“I don’t see why he should be criticised. At the same time I understand people who do it. Me, I won’t criticise him.”

Medvedev made the French Open quarter-finals for the first time and will tackle Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas for a place in the last four.

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Medvedev, who had never won a match at Roland Garros before this year, defeated Cristian Garin of Chile 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 in his last 16 tie.

Tsitsipas, a semi-finalist in 2020, eased past Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.

Naomi Osaka Pulls Out Of Berlin Tournament, Organisers Confirm

Naomi Osaka has pulled out of next week’s Berlin WTA grasscourt tournament in the wake of her controversial exit from the French Open, organisers confirmed Monday. “We have received notification that Naomi Osaka cannot start in Berlin. After consulting her management, she will take a break,” said a spokesman for the Berlin tournament, which starts June 14. Osaka has not said when she plans to play next, casting doubt on her participation at Wimbledon, which starts on June 28, and the Tokyo Olympics.

The 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam winner has been in the spotlight since withdrawing from Roland Garros after a dispute over her refusal to attend press conferences.

As a result, French tennis officials fined Osaka USD 15,000 and threatened to axe her from the tournament for not honoring mandatory media commitments, prompting the Japanese star to withdraw.

On Saturday, Osaka, who revealed her ongoing battle with depression and anxiety which she said having to face the media exacerbated, thanked her supporters in a brief message on Instagram.

Australian Open: Jennifer Brady Beats Karolina Muchova To Enter Maiden Grand Slam Final

American Jennifer Brady edged Karolina Muchova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in a tense Australian Open semi-final on Thursday to set up a title match with Naomi Osaka.

The big-serving 22nd seed secured her first Grand Slam final appearance on her fifth match point against the Czech 25th seed in front of thousands of fans allowed back on Rod Laver Arena after a snap five-day lockdown in Melbourne was lifted.

She will play Osaka in Saturday’s final after the world number three earlier ended Serena Williams’ bid for a record-equalling 24th major title 6-3, 6-4.

Brady, 25, is the last player standing among those forced into a hard 14-day quarantine after arriving in Australia.

“My legs are shaking, my heart is racing,” said Brady, who had 20 winners and eight aces.

“My legs felt fresh but they weren’t moving. They felt stuck in mud.

“I didn’t really pick up my intensity until the beginning of the third set.”

Brady set up a rematch of last year’s epic US Open semi-final, where Japan’s Osaka prevailed in three sets.

“We had a tough match in the US Open, where she said it was one of her top two matches,” said Brady, who sports a 1-2 win-loss record against Osaka.

“I’ll be nervous but I’m going to be super-excited.”

Compared to the blockbuster first semi-final, this was a surprise contest between first time Slam semi-finalist Muchova and Brady.

The warm conditions were expected to suit Brady and she started fast with an early break, but Muchova settled her nerves and clawed back into the contest.

But a loose service game in the 10th game punctuated by a double fault handed Brady the first set.

Having been in a similar predicament during her remarkable comeback quarter-final victory Wednesday over world number one Ashleigh Barty, a calm Muchova broke Brady to open the second set.

Muchova’s consistency and occasional charge to the net rattled an error-strewn Brady, who lost rhythm and relinquished her advantage.

The momentum shifted again when Brady broke in the third game of the final set.

Brady relied on her trusted serve to inch closer and on her second match point believed she had clinched victory, only to sink to her knees when her backhand was revealed to be long by just a couple of millimetres.

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A nervous Brady was forced to fend off three break points before finally booking a spot in her maiden Grand Slam final on her fifth match point, falling to the ground in euphoria.

Muchova’s previous best Grand Slam result was the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2019, the only time she had reached the second week of a Slam from eight attempts.