Osaka fined $15K for skipping French Open media; Thiem out

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Japan's Naomi Osaka serves the ball to Romania's Patricia Maria Tig during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium Sunday, May 30, 2021 in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

PARIS – Naomi Osaka was fined $15,000 when she skipped the news conference after her first-round victory at the French Open on Sunday — and drew a stunning warning from all four Grand Slam tournaments that she could face stiffer penalties, including disqualification or even suspension, if she continues to avoid the media.

Osaka returned to Roland Garros after sitting out the tournament last year and turned in a mistake-filled 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over 63rd-ranked Patricia Maria Tig at Court Philippe Chatrier on Day 1. She had declared Wednesday on social media she would not speak to the press and kept that promise.

Hours later, Osaka turned to her preferred method of communication these days, tweeting: “anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable.”

Other results perhaps were more newsworthy than a straight-set win by the No. 2-ranked Osaka — U.S. Open champion and two-time French Open runner-up Dominic Thiem's 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 loss to 68th-ranked Pablo Andujar comes to mind — but the events that unfolded after the Japanese superstar’s match were of high interest.

Tennis players are required to attend news conferences if requested to do so. The maximum fine, of course, is not a big deal to Osaka, the world’s highest-earning female athlete thanks to endorsement contracts totaling tens of millions of dollars.

She framed the matter as a mental health issue, saying that it can create self-doubt to have to answer questions after a loss.

“She’s capable of making her own choices and obviously she will do always what’s best for her,” Tig said. “I think that’s what’s happening now.”

Other players, notably 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal and No. 1-ranked Ash Barty, have said they respect Osaka's right to take a stance but explained that they consider speaking to reporters part of the job.