Olympics bosses make staggering move amid Naomi Osaka furore

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Seen here, Naomi Osaka at the 2021 French Open.
Naomi Osaka won't be obliged to front press conferences at the Tokyo Olympics. Pic: Getty

The Japanese Olympic Committee has confirmed that athletes at the Tokyo Games won't be obliged to attend press conferences, in what will surely be music to the ears of Naomi Osaka.

Tennis World No.2 Osaka is currently taking a break from the sport on mental health grounds, after sensationally withdrawing from the French Open at the end of last month.

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The Japanese star created a storm after refusing to participate in tennis' obligatory press conferences at Roland Garros, prompting a fine from tournament organisers and the threat of being banned from future tournaments if she continued to do so.

In explaining her media boycott, Osaka said the line of questioning she often fielded from the world's media was detrimental to her mental health.

It should come as a relief to the Japanese star then that Olympic Games competitors won't be required to attend press conferences by organisers.

The International Olympic Committee released a statement reading: “The IOC has never obliged athletes to hold a press conference.”

The Japanese Olympic Committee, which has the say over media requirements of Japanese athletes, also confirmed that Osaka would not face sanction if she continued her media boycott.

"There are no special penalties for not participating," they said.

Unlike the Olympic Games, grand slam tournaments can issue fines of up to $20,000 for players refusing to attend press conferences.

Repeat violations can even result in suspension or possible expulsion from tournaments.

Osaka skipping Wimbledon grand slam

Osaka rocked the tennis world again earlier this month after withdrawing from Wimbledon, with her agent confirming her decision to spend time with loved ones before the Olympics.

"Naomi won't be playing Wimbledon this year," Osaka's agent Stuart Duguid said in an email to AFP. "She is taking some personal time with friends and family.

"She will be ready for the Olympics and is excited to play in front of her home fans."

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

Pictured here, Naomi Osaka speaking at the Australian Open in 2020.
Naomi Osaka talks to the media at the Australian Open in 2020. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

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

Osaka lost in the third round of Wimbledon in 2017 and 2018 and bowed out in the first round in 2019. Last year's tournament was cancelled due to coronavirus.

Wimbledon is the second tournament Osaka has withdrawn from since abandoning her French Open campaign after one match.

She also withdrew from a WTA tournament in Berlin following Roland Garros.

The Japanese star is expected to be one of the faces of the Tokyo Olympics, where she will be targeting a gold medal for the hosts.

Osaka is one of the most exciting talents to emerge in women's tennis in recent years, and had already won four grand slam titles - the 2018 and 2020 US Opens and the 2019 and 2021 Australian Opens.

with agencies

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