Judy Murray reveals ugly truth about Naomi Osaka controversy

·4-min read
Pictured right, iconic tennis mum Judy Murray and Naomi Osaka in training on the left.
Judy Murray says she sympathises with Naomi Osaka and says the media demands on tennis players are enormous. Pic: Getty

The mother of tennis legend Andy Murray insists the sport only has itself to blame for the unfortunate situation that has unfolded with Naomi Osaka.

Judy Murray says she hopes the Japanese star finds a way to be comfortable in tennis again her bombshell decision to withdraw from the French Open, and take time away from the sport to deal with her mental health concerns.

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Murray, a coach and mother to three-times grand-slam winner Andy and multiple doubles champion Jamie, admits tennis players face extremely high demands from the media which could become an "underestimated source of stress".

The 61-year-old revealed that Andy used to struggle with press conferences and thinks it would be particularly hard for a young woman like Osaka - who is a self-described introvert - to be regularly bombarded with questions by men much older than her.

Four-times major winner Osaka stunned the tennis world on Monday when she withdrew from Roland Garros after being fined and threatened with expulsion for refusing to face the media, saying she needed to protect her mental well-being.

The Japanese 23-year-old, who is based in Florida, has received the backing of her home country, sponsors, fellow athletes and fans and was lauded for her courage in speaking about her mental health issues.

But many tennis players have also said they considered mandatory news conferences as part of the job.

Murray says she can sympathise with Osaka though, after claiming the media demands on tennis players are greater than in any other sport.

"Naomi Osaka's press-conference boycott has divided a lot of people but I find myself coming down on her side," Murray wrote in a column published in The Telegraph on Wednesday.

"I have always felt that the media demands on tennis players are extremely high - probably more so than in any other sport.

Naomi Osaka is seen here during the 2021 French Open tournament before she withdrew.
Naomi Osaka's French Open withdrawal stunned the tennis world this week. Pic: Getty

"Being afraid of facing the press, being tripped up by a curveball question, being trolled on social media, the loss of privacy: these public-facing elements of the job are an underestimated source of stress," she wrote.

"How many young people do you know who would be comfortable addressing or being questioned by a roomful of very much older strangers?

"It's hard for any young athlete, but especially so for girls. They look up and see dozens of middle-aged men, people they can't easily relate to, and who lack experience of playing the game."

Concerns over Osaka's tennis future

Murray said she had taken a course in public relations to help Andy when he struggled with media conferences.

"He wanted to compete in big stadiums in front of huge crowds, not to be asked about whether his shorts were too big or whether he should get a haircut, have a shave or smile more often," the Scot added.

"She (Osaka) is one of a very exciting batch of young female players and I am a big fan of hers. I hope with all my heart that she can find a way of feeling more at home in this sport.

"It would be terrible if we reached the point where we lost her to the game."

German tennis great Boris Becker expressed similar fears for Osaka's career after pondering what the Japanese star's break from the sport could mean for her career.

"If she can't cope with the media in Paris, she can't cope with the media in Wimbledon or the US Open. So I almost feel like her career is in danger due to mental health issues," Becker said on Eurosport, where he works as a tennis pundit.

"I always believed the media was part of the job. Without the media, there is no prize money, no contracts, you don't get half the cake," he added.

"I hated the media and I didn't like talking to journalists, but you had to do it.

"Now she is pulling out of the tournament altogether because she can't cope with it and that raises much bigger questions for me."

with agencies

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