BORIS BECKER: Naomi Osaka's press ban at the is wrong
BORIS BECKER: Naomi Osaka’s French Open press ban is wrong. If you want to put yourself out there in front of millions and get paid a lot, then you have to accept it… and why there are chinks in Rafael Nadal’s armour
- I cannot agree with Naomi Osaka refusing to speak to press at the French Open
- Speaking to the media is part of her responsibility as a professional player
- I would like to see someone seriously challenge Rafael Nadal this year
- My wish for Andy Murray is that he gets to leave the game on his own terms
As someone who began facing very large press conferences at the age of seventeen I can understand why they might make Naomi Osaka uneasy.
Yet I cannot agree with her refusing to speak to the media at the forthcoming French Open, as she announced this week.
When I heard about it my first thought is that she might be taking her cue from Harry and Meghan and what they are doing on Apple. Mental health is clearly a very important issue and it is something we should be talking about.
I cannot agree with Naomi Osaka refusing to discuss her matches at the French Open
By refusing to discuss her matches, however, I think she is taking it too far.
There were plenty of times when I did not enjoy talking to the press, but my manager in the early stages of my career, Ion Tiriac, told me from the start that it was part of the job. The media are like umpires, sometimes they can be annoying but you have to put up with them because they are a fact of life.
If you want to put yourself out there in front of thousands of fans, and millions more on TV, and get paid a lot of money for doing that, then you have to accept it.
Sponsors and TV companies pay money for a reason, that is how it works and you cannot have it both ways. It is completely different to playing in a public park.
I like Naomi, and am a big supporter of the causes she has championed, she is a huge talent and great for the game. Hopefully she will come to terms with her responsibilities. I know more than most that sometimes it can be difficult.
Players have to accept that they have a responsibility to speak to the media after games
On the court she faces the challenge in the coming weeks of showing that she can be more than just a dominant player on hard courts who has won the last two Grand Slams.
I suspect that clay will be the trickiest surface for her to get on top of, but I do not see why she could not perform well at Wimbledon, where she has yet to get past the third round.
Over the next fortnight you would see the last two champions, Ash Barty and Iga Swiatek, as the two favourites.
Barty is a wonderfully creative player who I love to watch. I would not be too concerned about the arm injury that took her out of the Italian Open and she is in a good position to win the title she did not defend back in October.
A threat may come from Aryna Sabalenka, who will surely start to make an impression on the Grand Slams soon. But the women’s singles is an unpredictable event, and all the more interesting for that.
Six weeks of fantastic tennis lies ahead of us and I have been drawing up my wishlist for what is to come.
Firstly I am looking forward to seeing as many fans as possible in the stadium as we emerge from this difficult time. Wimbledon has been sensible in having flexibility about its ticket arrangements until shortly before the event.
Secondly I want to see more young players emerge to seriously challenge the established order from both the men’s and women’s games.
Rafael Nadal could finally be properly threatened at Roland Garros this coming fortnight
Tennis could do without another procession to the title, despite the marvel that is Nadal
Most immediately I would like to see someone – anyone – properly threaten Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros this coming fortnight.
We have been here before, of course, but I sense a little more vulnerability about the great Spaniard this time, offering a sliver of optimism to Novak Djokovic in particular. Personally it does not bother me too much that they are in the same half of the draw – you cannot change the seeding system for just one year.
Nobody admires Nadal and his achievements more than I do, but the game could do without another procession to the title. To me he has looked maybe half a step slower during this clay court season. He won the Italian Open, but if Denis Shapovalov had finished him off in their third round match we might have been talking about things differently now.
It was interesting at the Australian Open that he looked quite tired during his loss to Tsitsipas. There have been a couple of times in the past few weeks when I have noticed Rafa breathing heavily.
To me, the Spaniard has looked maybe half a step slower during this clay court season
The problem is that opponents are playing not just his ball but his aura.
The loading of the draw on one side makes it a great chance for the challengers to reach the final. Dominic Thiem has struggled this year, but one good match might be enough to turn it around for him, while Alex Zverev cannot be discounted. Maybe Roger Federer will make the second week, but his eyes will be on reaching peak shape for Wimbledon.
The best hope among the younger generation by far is Tsitsipas – he is such a good all round player I could see him reaching the final in either Paris or London. Surely that consistency he has found this year is going to translate into big titles soon.
But let us keep the Nadal phenomenon on clay in perspective. He is maybe 95% what he was – and that will still be probably enough.
At the Australian Open that he looked quite tired during his loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas
But you have to play his ball and aura, and Novak Djokovic will be better at dealing with the aura than anyone
My wish for Andy Murray is that he gets to leave the game on his own terms, whenever that may be. It was not a great surprise that his attempt to play singles on the clay did not materialise, and the grass is going to be a much easier option for his body.
In his absence it has been great to see the continuing strides made by the contrasting figures Dan Evans and Cam Norrie, neither of whom you would have had down to claim recent wins on the clay against Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem between them.
I could watch Evans play all day. Now that he has got his head down and decided he wants to be a player he can trouble anyone on his day, even on this surface. But he really needs to start bringing his form on the regular tour to the Grand Slam events, which has not happened yet.
Norrie should be an inspiration to others in terms of what can be achieved through consistent dedication. He does not have the greatest serve but there are a couple of aspects to his game I really like. He is obviously tough, but his footwork is excellent and that flat backhand is tricky to deal with. I can see why some of the more mechanical players would have problems dealing with it.
With Murray’s issues, Kyle Edmund being injured and Jo Konta struggling, he and Evans have done a great job keeping the Brit flag flying.
My wish for Andy Murray is that he gets to leave the game on his own terms, whenever that is
Roland Garros has been moved back a week this year, thus shrinking the grass court season for 2021 and returning to the old two-week gap between the two Majors (for this year only).
That is going to make it a quick turnaround for those who do well in Paris and I will predict that we will see more first week upsets at Wimbledon as a result.
The big servers, for example, might well fancy their chances on the grass against those who will have little time to recover and prepare.
I often think you cannot underestimate the achievement of Bjorn Borg in winning the two events back-to-back three times in a row from 1978-80, especially with his game style. This year might be a reminder of what an amazing feat that was.
Roland Garros has been moved back a week this year, thus shrinking the grass court season
Sadly I will not be at Roland Garros, as it is another Grand Slam when the Eurosport coverage I present will be confined to the studio in Munich.
It is nobody’s fault, but clearly we cannot wait to be allowed back on site. Here in Germany, where I have been in recent weeks, we are maybe a month or six weeks behind the UK in terms of the vaccination drive and opening up again.
I am really looking forward to coming to back to London after this fortnight and being at Wimbledon with old friends like Sue Barker and Tim Henman and all the BBC crew.
I am looking forward to seeing Sue Barker (right) and Tim Henman (left) in London soon
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