Naomi Osaka is back on the tennis court.

And for the first time since the French Open, she took the podium for a press conference.

Just a few exchanges into the press conference at this week’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, someone “asked her a fairly aggressively toned question about how she benefits from a high-media profile but doesn’t like talking to media,” according to tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg.

The 23-year-old superstar attempted to address the inquiry but eventually broke down crying on the podium. She tried to regain her composure by wiping her eyes with her jacket sleeves, pulling her hat down over her eyes, and even engaging in some breathing exercises. When none of that did the trick, the WTA moderator paused the media session.

Osaka eventually returned to finish the press conference, according to Rothenberg. He insisted that “tennis media people who know Naomi [and whom Naomi knows] had it going smoothly” and that it was “a local reporter” – Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer – who “completely derailed it.”

“Don’t blame this on ‘tennis media’ again, folks,” he added.

Her agent, Stuart Duguid, was livid over the situation that unfolded in Ohio. He called Daugherty a “bully” whose “sole purpose was to intimidate.”

“The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now,” Duguid said, per Rothenberg. “Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong, and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior.”

“And this insinuation that Naomi owes her off-court success to the media is a myth – don’t be so self-indulgent,” he added.

In May, Osaka had a very public struggle over her media responsibilities at the French Open. She announced ahead of the tournament that she would not be speaking to the press because it harms her mental health. Still, when the powers that be at Roland-Garros fined her $15,000 for refusing to attend a press conference, the conflict exploded into the mainstream.

Eventually, Osaka withdrew from the tournament, adding a note on social media that she “never wanted to be a distraction” and simply gets “huge waves of anxiety” from speaking to the media. She subsequently took a hiatus from competition, skipping Wimbledon and other events before returning for the Tokyo Olympics.

Despite Daugherty’s challenging question regarding her relationship with the media, Osaka stood by her decision to stand up for herself and her own mental health needs.

“The biggest eye-opener was going to the Olympics and having other athletes come up to me and say they were really glad that I did what I did,” she said during the press conference. “I’m proud of what I did, and I think that it was something that needed to be done.”

Source: Meredith Cash