French Open 2021: 'I know how it feels,' Djokovic sympathises with Osaka
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has said the involvement of "traditional media" is crucial but has also sympathised with Naomi Osaka after she withdrew from the underway French Open on Monday
Japanese tennis star Osaka, who opted not to interact with the reporters during the Roland Garros on mental health grounds, was fined USD 15,000 and she received a warning for not carrying through her media duties.
On being asked what he thought of the entire episode, Djokovic said that Grand Slams are "protecting themselves".
"The Grand Slams are protecting themselves and their own business. Of course they are going to follow the rules and they are going to make sure that you are complying," Djokovic said after kickstarting the 2021 French Open with an easy 6-2 6-4 6-2 win against American Tennys Sandgren on Wednesday.
In the same post-match interview, Djokovic went on to explain that the way athletes interact with fans might have led her to announce that she would not attend the mandatory post-match conferences.
"The media is important, without a doubt. It's allowing us to have the platform to communicate with our fans, but in a more traditional way. It used to be the only way how we can reach out to our fans, right, in the last five years or maybe 10 years it's not the case anymore. We have our own platforms, our own social media accounts through which we are able to communicate directly with fans. Naomi, she's very young and she grew up obviously with social media and ability to speak out through her channels," the 18-time Grand Slam winner further explained.
Even though Djokovic believes the sessions with journalists are "part of our sport", he was supportive towards Osaka.
"Look, I can understand her very well, and I empathize with her, because I was on the wrong edge of the sword in my career many times with media. I know how it feels," added Djokovic.
In her statement announcing her withdrawal, Osaka cited her fight with depression among many other reasons.
"The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows that I'm introverted, and anyone that's seen me at tournaments will notice that I'm often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety
"The best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. The truth is I have suffered bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.
In Paris, I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences. I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite out-dated in parts and I wanted to highlight that," the World No. 2 Osaka wrote in a statement she shared on social media.