Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka makes headlines as the curtain rises at Roland Garros on Sunday, but, win or lose, the world number two will keep 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 of press conferences held by other players.
Osaka, the world’s highest-paid female athlete last year, opted for a code of silence to protest what she believes to be the damaging effect of media coverage on her mental health.
The four-time big winner says press conferences can be akin to “kicking people when they’re depressed.”
The president of the French Tennis Federation, Gilles Moretton, however, called Osaka’s decision a “phenomenal mistake”.
The WTA has reportedly “reached out” to Osaka in an attempt to break the deadlock that will cost the player up to $ 20,000 for refusing to hold mandatory press conferences.
On the court Sunday, Osaka, who has never made it past the third round in Paris, faces Romanian Patricia Maria Tig, 63rd, who won the Istanbul title on clay in 2020.
The tie will be the first on the Philippe Chatrier court.
As Osaka refuses to speak, Greek male world number five Stefanos Tsitsipas had a lot to offer during his pre-tournament press conference, even citing World War II British leader Winston Churchill at one point.
Tsitsipas, who will face home player Jeremy Chardy on Sunday, is widely seen as a potential champion if 13-time winner Rafael Nadal or world number one Novak Djokovic falters.
The 22-year-old took Djokovic to five sets in the 2020 semi-final in Paris.
He has already won the Monte Carlo Masters and Lyon clay court titles this season.
He also had a match point to defeat Nadal in the Barcelona final before the Spaniard recovered.
Tsitsipas has the advantage of being in the opposite half of the draw against Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer and their 58 Slams combined.
“Finally, for once,” he said after seeing the “Big Three” for the first time line up in the same section of a major.
On Sunday, the fourth seed, Dominic Thiem, finalist of 2018 and 2019 behind Nadal, is also in action.
Thiem faces Spanish veteran Pablo Andujar who beat Federer on clay in Geneva last week.
Sixth seed Alexander Zverev, the finalist in Madrid, starts against fellow German Oscar Otte, qualified and ranked 152nd in the world.
Fresh off her first career clay title in Madrid, Belarusian third seed Aryna Sabalenka faces Croatian qualifier Ana Konjuh.
Konjuh, 144th in the table, was second in Belgrade last week when she was forced to retire due to injury against Spain’s Paula Badosa.
The former top 20 player Konjuh has had four surgeries on her right elbow in recent years, even falling from the top 1,000 in 2019.
In a battle of former Grand Slam champions, Victoria Azarenka, seeded 15, faces Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, 2009 champion in Paris.
© 2021 AFP