In her first news conference with reporters since May, Olympian and No. 2 player in the world, Naomi Osaka began to cry, apparently needing to step away from the questioning.
This was also Osaka’s first media session since appearing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo earlier this month, and it got off to a hard start for the 23-year-old.
Speaking in a Zoom call before heading into Cincinnati's Western & Southern Open, Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Paul Daugherty asked about her relationship with the media saying, "You are 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 seemed to pause a few times which prompted the moderator to ask to move to the next question. Osaka, however, wanted to answer. She first asked Daugherty to clarify what he meant by his question. Osaka admitted that because of her ability at the sport, she faces more scrutiny than she would like, but she summed up her reply by telling the reporter, “I'm not really sure how to balance the two, I am figuring out at the same time as you are."
Osaka’s agent, Stuart Duguid, called Daugherty a “bully” and said his intent was obvious in the interview, “Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior.”
After the exchange, Osaka held back tears as she answered questions about her thoughts on the recent devastation in Haiti, where a 7.2 magnitude earthquake killed more than 1,300 dead people. Osaka’s father is Haitian, and she pledged to donate her winnings in the Western & Southern Open to help the country.
Osaka then left the news conference for a few minutes. She then returned to finish answering questions.
Osaka has been open about her struggles with anxiety brought on by speaking to the media in news conferences. The athlete pulled out of the French Open in May due to concern for her mental health. She received criticism and backlash for boycotting news conferences and was fined $15,000.
Her agent told The New York Times that Osaka was negatively affected by the tone of the questioning from the Enquirer.
Beryl Love, the Enquirer’s executive editor weighed in on what happened saying, “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.”