'Bully' leaves Osaka in tears at media conference

1 month ago 10
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A tearful Naomi Osaka has briefly walked out of a press conference in the United States after she was accused of manipulating the media.

Osaka's relationship with the media has been under the spotlight since she withdrew from Roland Garros in May having refused to front the mandatory media conferences, citing mental health concerns.

She subsequently skipped Wimbledon but returned for the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the cauldron during the opening ceremony before losing in the third round to Markéta Vondroušová.

Ahead of her first tour event since Paris, Osaka fronted a media conference in Cincinnati.

"You're not especially fond of dealing with the media, especially in this format," she was asked by Paul Daugherty, a long-time sports columnist at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Naomi Osaka is reduced to tears at a media conference ahead of the Cincinnati Open. (YouTube)

"You've suggested there are better ways to do it. You also have outside interests, beyond tennis, that are served by having a platform that the media presents to you.

"How do you think you might be able to best balance the two?"

Osaka initially seemed to handle the question well, offering a detailed answer that went for more than a minute.

"Ever since I was younger, I have had a lot of media interest on me, and I think it's because of my background as well as how I play," she said, acknowledging her Japanese-Haitian heritage.

"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 ... but I would also say I'm not really sure how to balance the two.

"Like I'm figuring it out at the same time as you are, I would say."

An emotional Naomi Osaka during her media conference at the Cincinnati Open. (YouTube)

It was only when the moderator called on the next question that the emotion seemed to get to Osaka, who wiped away tears and pulled her cap down over her eyes.

She was unable to continue as the moderator called a brief time-out, during which Osaka left the room to compose herself. She was later able to return.

Leading tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg later tweeted that it was the tone of the question, rather than the content, which upset Osaka.

"The topic itself wasn't terrible, but the aggressive tone from an unfamiliar person, after Naomi had already spoken in an earlier answer about how that's what she finds difficult in press conferences, got things going completely awry," he wrote.

Naomi Osaka lights the cauldron at the Tokyo Olympics. (Getty)

Rothenberg also tweeted a statement from Osaka's agent, Stuart Duguid, about the incident.

"The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player / media relations are so fraught right now," Duguid said.

"Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behaviour.

"And this insinuation that Naomi owes her off court success to the media is a myth – don't be so self-indulgent."

The world No.2 has a bye in the first round and will face the winner of the match between Coco Gauff and Su-Wei Shieh in the second round. Ash Barty is the top seed for the tournament.

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