Ugly Naomi Osaka twist in Roger Federer's French Open withdrawal

·Sports Editor
·5-min read
Roger Federer and Naomi Osaka, pictured here at the French Open.
Roger Federer and Naomi Osaka both withdrew from the French Open, albeit in different circumstances. Image: Getty

Naomi Osaka has inevitably been dragged into Roger Federer's shock decision to withdraw from Roland Garros, with many slamming the French Open's response to both situations.

Federer stunned the tennis world on Sunday when he pulled out of the French Open a day after winning a tough third-round match that finished close to 1am.

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The 39-year-old didn't specify that he was injured, simply saying he was opting to save himself for the grass-court season and what would be a fairytale 21st grand slam title at Wimbledon.

"After two knee operations and more than a year of rehabilitation, it's important that I listen to my body and not rush back into competition," he said.

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Federer's decision has sparked some backlash in the tennis world, mostly around the fact that he denied third-round opponent Dominik Koepfer a place in the fourth-round and a bigger payday.

However French Open officials were full of praise when reacting to Federer's withdrawal, despite it seemingly being against the spirit of the sport.

"The Roland Garros tournament is sorry about the withdrawal of Roger Federer, who put up an incredible fight last night," said Guy Forget, the tournament director.

"We were all delighted to see Roger back in Paris, where he played three high-level matches. We wish him all the best for the rest of the season."

Forget's response was in complete contrast to the way he and other French Open officials responded to Osaka's decision to skip her press conferences in Paris due to mental health reasons.

Organisers initially slammed Osaka and threatened her with expulsion from the tournament, before she eventually withdrew of her own accord.

"I think this is a phenomenal mistake. It shows to what extent today (the need) that there is strong governance in tennis," French Tennis Federation President Gilles Moretton initially said of Osaka.

"What is happening there is, in my opinion, not acceptable. We will stick to the laws and rules for penalties and fines."

Fans and pundits were quick to point out the disparity between responses to the situations involving Osaka and Federer, while retired American player Mardy Fish said the French Open only had themselves to blame for both.

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Roger Federer cops backlash over French Open withdrawal

While Federer has copped some backlash, the level of vitriol hasn't been the same as when Osaka first announced her intention to boycott media commitments.

But American greats John and Patrick McEnroe were two high-profile names to criticise Federer.

“I understand it, but I don’t like it. It’s just not a great look to pull out of a tournament in the middle," Patrick McEnroe told the New York Times.

“It’s one thing if you sprain an ankle badly and finish a match on adrenaline. Those things happen. But it’s another thing when you kind of go into a tournament knowing that you probably aren’t going to be able to really finish the tournament."

Roger Federer, pictured here after beating Dominik Koepfer at the French Open.
Roger Federer leaves the court after beating Dominik Koepfer at the French Open. (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images)

John McEnroe was also gobsmacked, telling NBC: “Perhaps Roger might have done the magnanimous thing and defaulted match point up (against Koepfer) … but that’s easy for me to say from Malibu."

While Former Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee criticised Federer on Twitter, writing: "You're not at a candy store, able to pick and choose which matches you play, as your actions affect others, and the tournament."

However Chris Evert said Federer is "free to do whatever he wants".

"He has paid his dues, he's 39, his goal is Wimbledon on the grass, his dream tournament, where the rallies are shorter and it favours mobility and power," she said.

"I think he surprised himself that he got to the second week of the French. I think he was using it as practice matches but obviously with the wear and tear, when he hasn't played for such a long time, takes its toll on a 39-year-old body.

"I'm 100% behind him and it shouldn't be a knock to the tournament. He wants to be the best prepared for Wimbledon."

with agencies

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