French Open boss slammed for gross hypocrisy in response to Naomi Osaka exit

French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton has been roasted for failing to take any questions after saying on Monday he “was sorry and sad” that Naomi Osaka had decided to withdraw from Roland Garros.

The Japanese star announced on Tuesday she was pulling out of the French Open to focus on her wellbeing after revealing she had been suffering from mental health issues.

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The decision comes in the wake of Osaka’s headline-grabbing call to boycott press conferences in Paris. Last week she said she has “often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health” and forcing players to front the media after a tough loss is akin to “kicking a person while they are down”.

Moretton said on the eve of the tournament that Osaka’s decision not to attend mandatory press conferences was a “phenomenal error” and “not acceptable”, but softened his stance on Tuesday after her exit.

“We are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka. The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland Garros is unfortunate,” Moretton said as he read out a pre-prepared statement to reporters.

“We wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery.

“We look forward to having Naomi in our tournament next year.

“As all the Grand Slams, the WTA, the ATP, and the ITF, we remain very committed to all athletes’ wellbeing and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our tournament, including with the media, like we have always striven to do.”

After finishing his statement, Moretton abruptly left, not taking any questions from journalists — ironic considering the very reason he was so upset with Osaka was because she wouldn’t answer questions either.

Naomi Osaka is taking a break from tennis.Source:Getty Images

Tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg tweeted: “The immense irony of the FFT President not taking questions from the media in the wake of this Osaka withdrawal is not lost on anyone.”

The Times’ Tennis writer Stu Fraser wrote: “A new entry tonight for PR shambles of the year. Would love to know the thinking behind the FFT president calling a press conference and delivering a short pre-prepared statement on Osaka (that could have easily been sent out via email) without taking questions. Oh, the irony.”

Former Australian tennis official Richard Ings added: “So the FFT handled the Ms Osaka mental health concerns without empathy or sensitivity. Then the FFT President refuses to take questions at a presser. An own goal.”

American sportscaster Jill Martin said on Twitter: “No questions, eh?”

American political strategist Adrienne Elrod called Moretton’s performance “hypocrisy at its finest” while rugby presenter Joe Molloy said: “See Gilles Moretton, of French Federation Tennis, called a press conference, read a statement but refused to take any questions? Ironic doesn’t quite cover it.”

Gilles Moretton came under fire for his response to Osaka’s withdrawal.Source:Twitter

Moretton wasn’t the only tennis official to complain about Osaka’s stance towards press conferences before she took the sensational step of withdrawing. French Open tournament director Guy Forget said last week he was stunned by Osaka’s decision, which he found at odds with a tournament still facing organisational challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic.

“As the tournament progresses, we will see how she behaves. I don’t know what her attitude will be in the coming days, but it doesn’t send a very positive message,” Forget said on Friday.

On Monday the four grand slams united and threatened to disqualify Osaka if she continued with her boycott. But tennis fans turned on the sport’s bosses for showing little empathy towards the 23-year-old.

There’s been plenty of support from Osaka’s fellow players. Sloane Stephens, Coco Gauff and Venus Williams were among those to send their well-wishes on social media, while Serena Williams also addressed the matter after her first round win in Paris.

“The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like,” Williams said after beating Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets.

“We have different personalities, and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin.

“Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to.

“I’ve been there where I’ve been very difficult to walk in (to press conferences) in those moments. But, you know, it made me stronger.”

With AFP

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