Russian tennis champion Elena Vesnina has held forth on Naomi Osaka and said the star’s media boycott is down to “thinking about mental health of the players”, winning praise for her response as the veteran launches a comeback.
At a time when some leading tennis stars have appeared divided on their views over Osaka’s high-profile shunning of press duties, doubles ace Vesnina has offered a more considered view on the furious row, praising the media and predicting that the world number two will change her mind.
Grand Slam bosses warned that Osaka’s actions were a threat to the development of the game and unfair on other players in a statement at the start of the tournament, slapping a $15,000 dollar fine on the second seed, who has claimed that she is taking action because she wants to look after her mind and avoid negativity and repetitive questions.
“I think Naomi is doing a lot of stuff for tennis, for the players, and she’s thinking about mental health of the players,” said Vesnina, who returned to Roland Garros with a straight sets victory after almost three years out, including becoming a mom.
— David Kane (@DKTNNS) May 30, 2021
Super nuanced approach to the Osaka debate (excerpted from much longer answers). pic.twitter.com/iOKApl2wUh
— David Kane (@DKTNNS) May 30, 2021
“This is important, I think. She’s young and, of course, she wants to do everything straight away, like most young people.
“They are brave, they are straight and are all about ‘the revolution’, you know: ‘let’s go.’”
Former champion Venus Williams enthusiastically backed Osaka on social media, but the likes of all-time greats Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have expressed misgivings about her stance, while fans have clashed online over whether her actions amount to misguided attention seeking or admirable fresh thinking.
“Anger is a lack of understanding,” Osaka tweeted after bosses from Roland Garros, the US Open, the Australian Open and Wimbledon joined forces for their lengthy statement that said she could face further fines and exclusion from the tournament and future competitions.
“I don’t think that it’s a good idea to default Naomi for that because she did it in a good way,” cautioned Vesnina.
“She wanted to fight for her thoughts, her psychology of her life, because she’s this kind of a player, and we have to respect that as well.
Grown ups are amazing.
— Nawal (@NawalNadal) May 30, 2021
I think that's a sort of cowardly answer. She wanted to say she doesn't agree with Osaka's stance but at the same time she doesn't want to be pointed at like being the one who sides with those who criticize Osaka. We call these ppl "having feet in 2 boats". I prefer Bencic.
— Daria (@Dariadda) May 30, 2021
“Maybe she will change her mind on the next tournament, but right now, she tried.
“She wants to try to fight for the physical and mental part of the players after matches, but I think in the future she might change her mind because the work that you do is really important, and I understand that totally.”
No players have said they intend to follow suit, and the tournament swiftly deleted a tweet involving Nadal and three other players appearing to conduct interviews, adding that they “understood the assignment.”
“Your work is very important for us,” Vesnina told reporters.
“You are helping our sport to get better, to help people to know players better, to give the information to the people around the world about tennis, about Grand Slams, about the situation.
“I think, yes, after the tough matches it is tough to come to the press and to talk with you guys when you had a tough match and you had match points or something.
anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 30, 2021
“[There are] times when maybe you want to cry, sitting in front of you, but this is kind of a part of your job, and you have to accept it.”
Four-time Grand Slam winner Vesnina enjoyed a crushing 6-1, 6-0 victory over Belarusian Olga Govortsova.
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