Novak Djokovic says he can completely understand the struggles Naomi Osaka is facing, and praised her for her ‘bold decision’ to confront them.
Osaka attempted to boycott the press at the French Open this month but later decided to withdraw from the tournament entirely following a strong response from tournament officials.
She explained that central to her decision was struggles with the social anxiety she feels when dealing with the press, and Djokovic says that he can certainly understand.
“She is very young and she grew up with social media and ability to speak out through her channels,” Novak Djokovic said in his own press conference following his first-round win over Tennys Sandgren.
“I can understand her very well, and I emphasise with her because I was on the wrong edge of the sword in my career many times [with the] media. I know how it feels.
“I support her. I think she was very brave to do that. I’m really sorry that she is going through painful times and suffering mentally, is what I have heard.
“I haven’t spoken to her, but it seems like she has been struggling. I wish her all the best, I hope she recovers. She is an important player, brand and person for our sport. So we need to have her back.
“This was, I must say, a very bold decision from her side.
“If she needs to take time and reflect and just recharge that’s what she needed to do, and I respect it fully. I hope that she’ll come back stronger.”
While Djokovic’s support for Osaka was absolute, he also reiterated his previously stated opinion that the media are ‘important’ to tennis and it’s not a side of the job that players can simply avoid.
“The Grand Slams are protecting themselves and their own business and they are going to follow the rules and they are going to make sure that you are complying otherwise you will be paying fines or getting sanctioned.
“It is not surprising to me that that was their reaction because we used to this environment and this principles of us doing interviews after every match and getting to answer questions that are quite similar.
“But it is part of our sport, it is part of what we do, the media is important without a doubt. It is allowing us to have the platform to communicate with the fans, but in a more traditional way.”
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