Venus Williams has best response yet to Naomi Osaka media storm

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Wed, 2 Jun 2021, 12:11PM

Venus Williams has best response yet to Naomi Osaka media storm

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Wed, 2 Jun 2021, 12:11PM

American star Venus Williams said she has never suffered at press conferences, telling French Open reporters: "I know every person asking me a question cannot play as well as me".

Williams was responding to Naomi Osaka's belief that post-match media inquests were harmful to her mental health and equated them to "kicking a person when they're down".

Osaka withdrew from Roland Garros on Tuesday but the 40-year-old Williams said she had her own defence mechanism, developed over a career which has yielded seven majors.

"For me personally how I deal with it was that I know every single person asking me a question can't play as well as I can and never will," she said.

"So no matter what you say or what you write, you'll never light a candle to me.

"That's how I deal with it. But each person deals with it differently."

Tennis fans loved Venus' response. Sports writer Liz Roscher tweeted: "Venus is a legend, now and forever."

TV presenter Nicky Crosby wrote: "I can't love this anymore from Venus Williams. What a BURN!!"

The Tennis Podcast tweeted: "As the name suggests, she's otherworldly".

Osaka, a 23-year-old who was born in Japan and moved with her family to the U.S. at age 3, said she would "take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans."

Tennis players are required to attend news conferences if requested to do so; Grand Slam rules allow for fines up to $20,000 if they don't show up.

"On behalf of the Grand Slams, we wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court. She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate," Tuesday's statement from those in charge of the French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open said.

"Mental health is a very challenging issue, which deserves our utmost attention. It is both complex and personal, as what affects one individual does not necessarily affect another. We commend Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressures and anxieties she is feeling and we empathize with the unique pressures tennis players may face."

Japan's Naomi Osaka celebrates after defeating Romania's Patricia Maria Tig during their first round match of the French Open. (Photo / AP)

French tennis federation President Gilles Moretton, All England Club Chairman Ian Hewitt, U.S. Tennis Association President Mike McNulty and Tennis Australia President Jayne Hrdlicka pledged to work with players, the tours and media "to improve the player experience at our tournaments" while making sure the athletes all are on a "fair playing field, regardless of ranking or status."

In a separate statement issued Tuesday to the AP via email, International Tennis Federation official Heather Bowler said the sport will "review what needs to evolve" after Osaka "shone a light on mental health issues."

"It's in all our interests to ensure that we continue to provide a respectful and qualitative environment that enables all stakeholders to do their job to their best ability, without impacting their health, and for the good of the sport," Bowler wrote.

Various tennis players offered support for Osaka for being forthcoming about her personal story in her statement Monday on social media.

"It's hard. Nobody really knows what anyone is going through, no matter how much they choose to show on the outside. I had no idea about her. But I respect her openness," 20-year-old American pro Ann Li said after her victory. "Our generation is becoming more open and open, which can be a good thing and also a bad thing sometimes. I hope she's doing OK."

Gael Monfils, a 34-year-old from France who also won Tuesday, offered a sentiment surely shared by many around tennis, from tournament and tour officials to athletes to the sport's fans.

"We need Naomi. We need her definitely to be 100%," Monfils said. "We need her back on the court, back (at) the press conference — and back happy."

- With AP