Face the press or don't play, Wilander tells Osaka

PARIS, May 30 (Reuters) - Naomi Osaka should not play tournament tennis until she is ready to take part in post-match news conferences, seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander said on Sunday.

The Japanese player, a four-time Grand Slam winner, said she would not hold press conferences at Roland Garros, citing mental health reasons.

Post-match news conferences are mandatory for players, who can face a fine of up to 20,000 US dollars if they skip them.

"Why should she be treated any differently to the other players? That's not fair to the other players," Wilander, a pundit for Eurosport, said.

"So she definitely has to do it. She has sponsors; she is the highest paid female athlete in the world. So we want to see great champions win, we want to see them celebrate, but we also want to be inspired by great athletes when things are tough."

Wilander said mental health concerns were common amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and he urged Osaka to reconsider her position.

"We are all struggling with mental issues these days during the pandemic, but Naomi, I think you need to reconsider or, I would say, don’t play in the tournament until you are ready to face the job," he explained.

Despite not holding a post-match news conference Osaka answered questions from a courtside interviewer after reaching the second round on Sunday.

Top players such as world number one Novak Djokovic and 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal have said they consider post-match news conferences part of the job.

"In Japan, she is absolutely huge, maybe the biggest athlete that any country has ever produced. And they don't get to hear her talk. So yeah, it's really a bad move and I love what all the players are saying about it," said Wilander, who suggested that Osaka should have played in the 1980s.

"Because when I played, we never had a press conference before the tournament started," he said.

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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