'Forced on us': Liz Cambage weighs in on Naomi Osaka controversy

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
Naomi Osaka's decision to withdraw from the French Open was backed by Australian basketball star Liz Cambage, who called for changes to the way athletes deal with the media. Pictures: Getty Images
Naomi Osaka's decision to withdraw from the French Open was backed by Australian basketball star Liz Cambage, who called for changes to the way athletes deal with the media. Pictures: Getty Images

Australian basketball susperstar Liz Cambage has thrown her support behind Naomi Osaka, after the 23-year-old announced she was withdrawing from the French Open.

Osaka triggered an intense debate about the nature of the relationship between journalists and athletes last week, when she declared she would not be attending any post-match press conferences throughout the tournament.

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While her stance garnered some support from fellow athletes and others in the media, she also drew a significant amount of criticism, particularly from French Open officials.

She announced her decision to withdraw from the tournament following her first round straight-sets victory over Patricia Maria Tig, after being threatened with disqualification from the tournament.

Osaka said she has "suffered long bouts of depression" and will now "take some time away from the court".

"The best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris," she wrote on Twitter.

The 23-year-old Japanese-American star found a supporter in Australian basketballer Cambage, herself no stranger to speaking up about the treatment of athletes.

Cambage shared Osaka's message on Twitter, adding that performance in competition should be the true judge of athletes.

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"Doing media is forced upon us," she wrote. 

"It’s time to start protecting those that don’t want to speak.... let their game speak for them. 

"Being forced to do media shouldn’t be part of being an athlete."

Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open

Osaka said in the build-up to the tournament that she would not attend the obligatory press conferences for players after matches, saying the questioning by journalists stresses her mental health.

The four-time grand slam champion made good on her threat on Sunday when, after winning her first round match, she did not hold a press conference.

She was fined $15,000 ($A19,400) by the Roland Garros referee, and grand slam organisers later issued a strongly worded statement warning of possible expulsion from the French Open and future majors if she failed to change her stance.

On Monday, the 23-year-old Osaka took matters into her own hands to end the stand-off.

"This isn't a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago," the world No.2 posted on Twitter.

"I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris.

"I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer."

Naomi Osaka's heavily discussed media boycott is coming under fierce scrutiny. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Naomi Osaka's heavily discussed media boycott came under heavy scrutiny before she decided to withdraw from the French Open entirely. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Osaka, one of the biggest names in women's sport, went on to say she had suffered from depression.

"The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that," she said.

"Anyone that knows me knows I'm introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I'm often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety."

The French Tennis Federation, organisers of the tournament, called her withdrawal "unfortunate" while the Women's Tennis Association said mental health was one of the highest priorities of the organisation.

With AAP

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