John McEnroe fears Naomi Osaka may be forced out of the tennis in a similar way that Bjorn Borg was due to her recent struggles.
Osaka is probably the leading light in women’s tennis right now, winning four Grand Slams already and building a huge social profile.
However, she found herself at the centre of a storm this week when she withdrew from the French Open saying she did not feel able to face her obligations to the press due to social anxieties.
That came after she first announced she would simply boycott the media at the tournament and was fined and threatened with a default for doing just that after her first round win.
According to McEnroe, though, tennis needs to be very careful that they don’t lose one of its most important stars – again.
“Look at my buddy Bjorn Borg, he stopped at 25,” McEnroe said on the Holding Court Podcast. “There is a danger that Osaka is not going to keep going.”
“Who knows what’s going to happen with her. I feel really concerned because Bjorn Borg was one of the best things that ever happened to our sport and I feel like he was pushed out of the game.
“I think Osaka is feeling something similar right now.”
McEnroe also took aim at the Roland Garros officials for their handling of the situation, saying they got tone entirely wrong and missed the opportunity Osaka’s concerns presented them with.
“I’m very concerned about our sport,” McEnroe told his brother, Patrick, while speaking on his “Holding Court” podcast on Wednesday. “More so after what’s transpired the last couple of days.
“I thought what Naomi did initially would give food for thought to the powers that be, but they felt they had to come back with something strong and intimidating, obviously, and what they did, for me, is cause a lose-lose for everyone now.
“Naomi’s decided not to play. She’s laid bare her own feelings which is good for us to know as outsiders looking in, but the truth is I think that this is only going to bring more attention to it down the road, so that’s going to be difficult for her.
“The powers that be, in my opinion, didn’t need to take it to the level where they were threatening to default her, that would [have been] a major negative for the sport. And that’s what they did.
“It’s one thing to fine a player, a player obviously like Osaka can afford it and maybe that money could have gone to a good cause, but now what they’ve done, to me, exploded in their face.”
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