As someone who started facing very large press conferences at the age of seventeen, I can understand why they could make Naomi Osaka uncomfortable.
Still, I can’t agree that she’s refusing to speak to the media at the upcoming French Open, as she announced this week.
When I heard about it, my first thought was that she might take her cue from Harry and Meghan and what they do on Apple. Mental health is clearly a very important issue and it is something we need to talk about.
I disagree that Naomi Osaka refuses to discuss her matches at the French Open
By refusing to discuss her matches, I think she’s going too far.
There were often times when I didn’t like talking to the press, but my early career manager, Ion Tiriac, told me from the start that it was part of the job. The media are like referees, sometimes they can be annoying, but you have to put up with them because they are a fact.
If you want to put yourself in front of thousands of fans, and millions more on TV, and get paid a lot of money for that, then you have to accept it.
Sponsors and TV companies pay money for a reason, that’s how it works and you can’t get it from both sides. It’s very different from playing in a public park.
I love Naomi and am a big believer in the goals she has defended, she is a huge talent and great for the game. Hopefully she will come to terms with her responsibilities. I know better than anyone that it can be difficult at times.
Players must accept that they have a responsibility to talk to the media after games
On the field, she will face the challenge in the coming weeks to show that she can be more than just a dominant hard court player who has won the last two Grand Slams.
I suspect that clay will be the hardest surface for her to get on top of, but I don’t see why she couldn’t perform well at Wimbledon, where she has yet to pass the third round.
In the next two weeks, you would see the last two champions, Ash Barty and Iga Swiatek, as the two favorites.
Barty is a wonderfully creative player that I love to watch. I wouldn’t worry too much about the arm injury that took her out of the Italian Open and she’s in a good position to win the title she didn’t defend in October.
A threat may come from Aryna Sabalenka, who is sure to impress the Grand Slams soon. But women’s singles is an unpredictable event, and therefore all the more interesting.
Six weeks of fantastic tennis lie ahead and I’m preparing my wish list for what’s to come.
Firstly, I look forward to seeing as many fans in the stadium as possible as we come out of this difficult time. Wimbledon has been wise in having flexibility in arranging tickets until shortly before the event.
Second, I want more young players to come forward who seriously challenge the established order in both men’s and women’s matches.
Rafael Nadal could finally be seriously threatened at Roland Garros in the next two weeks
Tennis could do without another procession to the title, despite the wonder that Nadal is
Most immediately I would like someone – anyone – to properly threaten Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros for the next two weeks.
We’ve been here before, of course, but this time I feel a little more vulnerable about the great Spaniard, which offers Novak Djokovic in particular a glimmer of optimism. I personally don’t mind that they are in the same half of the draw – you can’t change the seeding system for just a year.
Nobody admires Nadal and his performance more than I do, but the game could do without another procession to the title. To me, he has looked maybe half a step slower during this clay court season. He won the Italian Open, but if Denis Shapovalov had finished him in their third round, we might have talked about things differently now.
It was interesting at the Australian Open that he looked pretty tired during his loss to Tsitsipas. There have been a few times in the last few weeks that I have noticed that Rafa was breathing heavily.
To me, the Spaniard looked maybe half a step slower during this clay court season
The problem is that opponents play not only his ball, but also his aura.
Loading the draw on one side makes it a great chance for the challengers to reach the final. Dominic Thiem has had a tough time this year, but a good match could be enough to turn it around for him, while Alex Zverev can’t be discounted. Roger Federer may make it to the second week, but his eyes will be on reaching top form for Wimbledon.
By far the younger generation’s best hope is Tsitsipas – he’s such a good all-round player that I could see him reach the final in Paris or London. That consistency he’s found this year is sure to translate into big titles soon.
But let’s keep the Nadal phenomenon on clay in perspective. He is maybe 95% what he used to be – and that will probably still be enough.
At the Australian Open, he looked pretty tired during his loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas
But you have to play his ball and aura, and Novak Djokovic will handle the aura better than anyone else.
My wish for Andy Murray is that he can leave the game on his own terms, whenever that may be. It was no big surprise that his attempt at playing singles on clay did not materialize, and the grass is becoming a much easier option for his body.
In his absence, it was great to see the continued progress made by contrasting figures Dan Evans and Cam Norrie, neither of whom would have had to claim recent clay court victories against Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem between them.
I could see Evans playing all day. Now that he’s kept his head down and decided he wants to become a player, he can bother anyone in his day, even on this surface. But he really needs to take his form on the regular tour to the Grand Slam events, which hasn’t happened yet.
Norrie should be an inspiration to others in terms of what can be achieved through consistent dedication. He doesn’t have the best service, but there are a few aspects of his game that I really like. Obviously he’s tough, but his footwork is excellent and that flat backhand is a pain to handle. I can see why some of the more mechanical players would struggle with it.
With Murray’s issues, Kyle Edmund being injured and Jo Konta struggling, he and Evans have done a great job of holding the UK flag.
My wish for Andy Murray is that he can leave the game on his own terms, whenever that is
Roland Garros has moved back a week this year, cutting back the grass season for 2021 and returning to the old two-week gap between the two Majors (for this year only).
That’s going to make it a quick turnaround for those who are doing well in Paris and I will predict that as a result we will see more unrest in the first week at Wimbledon.
For example, the big servers could see their chances on the grass against those who have little time to recover and prepare.
I often think that you shouldn’t underestimate Bjorn Borg’s performance in winning the two events three times in a row from 1978-80 three times in a row, especially with his style of play. This year will perhaps be a reminder of what a great achievement that was.
Roland Garros has been pushed back a week this year, which has reduced the grass season
Unfortunately I will not be at Roland Garros as it will be another Grand Slam when the Eurosport coverage I present will be limited to the Munich studio.
It’s no one’s fault, but clearly we can’t wait to get back on the scene. Here in Germany, where I’ve been for the past few weeks, we’re maybe a month or six weeks behind the UK in terms of vaccination push and reopening.
I’m really looking forward to coming back to London after these two weeks and being at Wimbledon with old friends like Sue Barker and Tim Henman and the whole BBC crew.
I look forward to seeing Sue Barker (right) and Tim Henman (left) in London soon