Naomi Osaka confirms staggering backflip for Tokyo Olympics

Naomi Osaka says she will attend press conferences at the Tokyo Olympics.
Naomi Osaka has confirmed she will attend press conferences while representing Japan at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Naomi Osaka says she will front press conference at the Tokyo Olympics, weeks after withdrawing from the French Open over her refusal to front the press.

The 23-year-old is a strong medal contender for Japan heading into the postponed 2021 Games, having pulled out of Roland Garros after one match and skipped Wimbledon.

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Osaka said she was willing to be fined by Roland Garros officials for not showing up to press conferences, citing bouts of anxiety brought on by questions about her form.

In an interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK however, Osaka said she had been focusing on her preparation for the Olympics and confirmed she would attend press conferences.

The world No.2 said battling anxiety had been a constant throughout her career, particularly after making her way to the top of the tennis world.

"I am preparing myself little by little so I can be at the top of my game for the Olympics," the 23-year-old wrote in a message published by the broadcaster.

"Since getting the attention of the world, I've always had bouts of anxiety. This is especially the case in the lead up to big competitions."

In the message published by NHK, Osaka said she was "proud" to play for her country at the Games, adding that she would take part in news conferences while giving consideration to her mental health.

She was fined $15,000 and threatened with disqualification from Roland Garros after refusing to honour mandatory media commitments.

French Open organisers protested that they had treated her with "care and respect" after they were accused of being heavy-handed.

Osaka's agent said last month that she had withdrawn from Wimbledon to spend time with friends and family.

But he added that she was "excited to play in front of her home fans" at Tokyo 2020, which begins on July 23.

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Soon after the French Open furore, finance magazine Forbes announced Osaka as the 12th highest paid athlete in the world.

According to Forbes, Osaka made a staggering $77.5 million (AU) over the past 12 months - breaking her own record for female athletes.

A whopping $71.7 million of that total came from endorsements and sponsorships, making her the 12th highest-paid athlete in the world and outranking male stars Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Osaka's long list of endorsement partners has gone past 20 over the last year, with Google and Louis Vuitton jumping on board most recently.

And while many might think her controversial media boycott at the French Open will hurt her sponsorship numbers, Forbes believes it is actually the opposite.

Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French open and skipped Wimbledon after opting not to attend press conferences after games. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French open and skipped Wimbledon after opting not to attend press conferences after games. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

"It’s the kind of stance that might send corporate sponsors running. Not likely for Osaka," wrote Brett Knight.

"Her endorsement deals do not contain reductions if her playing time is limited. In fact, many of her leading sponsors have already jumped to her defence, even as some fans on social media are slamming her decision."

Japanese sponsor Nissin Foods wished Osaka a quick recovery while the world's biggest athletic shoe maker, Nike, lauded her for her courage in sharing her mental health experience.

“Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognise her courage in sharing her own mental health experience," Nike said in a statement.

GoDaddy, Hyperice, Levi’s, TAG Heuer, Sweetgreen, MasterCard and Beats Electronics all expressed similar sentiments.

with AFP

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