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Naomi Osaka steps away from news conference after question on relationship with media

Tennis star Naomi Osaka teared up and briefly left a tournament news conference Monday after questions about her relationship with the media.

They came from a Cincinnati Enquirer journalist during the Western & Southern Open, which is in Cincinnati.

Osaka, the second-ranked tennis player in the world, has said she has anxiety about dealing the media and withdrew from the 2021 French Open in May, after her decision not to do media interviews to prioritize her mental health.

Osaka’s agent, Stuart Duguid, in a statement to The New York Times that was confirmed to NBC News objected to the reporter’s tone during Monday’s news conference.

The questioning began with, “You’re not crazy about dealing with us, especially in this format, yet you have a lot of outside interests that are served by having a media platform. I guess my question is, how do you balance the two?”

Osaka took a moment and a moderator offered to move on before the athlete said she was interested in exploring the question. Ultimately, the tennis star said she was not sure.

“I can’t really help that there are some things that I tweet or some things that I say that kind of create a lot of news articles or things like that. And I know that it’s because I’ve won a couple Grand Slams and I’ve gotten to do a lot of press conferences that these things happen,” Osaka said.

“But I would also say like, I, I’m not really sure how to balance it. I’m figuring it out at the same time as you are, I would say,” she said.

There were other questions from a different journalist about tennis, but Osaka appeared to wipe away tears and the news conference took a break. Osaka left during the break but later returned and answered more questions.

Cincinnati Enquirer Executive Editor Beryl Love said the reporter asked a straightforward question.

“We appreciate the respectful dialogue with Ms. Osaka at the press conference. It was a straightforward question that we feel led to a meaningful exchange. That said, we sincerely regret that our questioning upset her in any way,” Love said.

Osaka, 23, has a bye to the second round of the tournament and said Saturday that she would donate any prize money to relief efforts in Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that claimed more than 1,400 lives.

Osaka, whose father is Haitian, said Monday she wants to find a way to do more.

“I feel like I’m not really doing that much, like I could do more and I’m trying to figure out what I can do,” she said.

Her withdrawal from the French Open earlier this year and her disclosure that she has dealt with depression and anxiety sparked a conversation about mental health and sports.

U.S. Olympic champion gymnast Simone Biles, who withdrew from some events at the Tokyo Games, has said that she was inspired by Osaka and that athletes should put their mental health first.


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