Tagged in: Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka returns to court for first time since May, wins in first round of Silicon Valley Classic

Four-time major champion Naomi Osaka collected the first match she has played since May, defeating Zheng Qinwen 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 on Tuesday night at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.

Osaka hit 11 aces and saved 7 of 8 break points in the hard-court tournament that serves as a tuneup for the US Open.

Osaka, who had not played anywhere since a first-round loss to Amanda Anisimova at the French Open on May 23, was all smiles after the match, waving and clapping back at the crowd, which gave her a standing ovation.

“It’s really good to be back,” she said in her on-court interview after the win. “I’m just really happy.”

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The former No. 1-ranked player was bothered by her left Achilles tendon during that defeat, then cited that lingering injury when she pulled out of Wimbledon in June. Osaka won the US Open in 2018 and 2020.

Next up for Osaka is Coco Gauff, who won her match 6-0, 6-1 over Anhelina Kalinina.

Osaka leads their head-to-head series 2-1, including a triumph over Gauff at the 2019 US Open. Gauff was the runner-up at this year’s French Open.

Another past champion at Flushing Meadows, 2019 winner Bianca Andreescu, lost Tuesday in San Jose, beaten 6-4, 6-2 by Shelby Rogers.

In other first-round action, qualifier Elizabeth Mandlik won her WTA debut, defeating Alison Riske-Amritraj 6-3, 6-3, and No. 9 seed Veronika Kudermetova beat Camila Giorgi 7-6 (2), 4-6, 7-5.

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Jessica Pegula reaches Miami Open semifinals after Paula Badosa retires in first set

Forget three-setters. These days, Jessica Pegula doesn’t even need second sets.

The No. 16 seed has made the semifinals at the Miami Open, benefiting from a second consecutive abrupt ending. She won her quarterfinal versus fifth-seeded Paula Badosa on Wednesday, after the Spaniard retired five games into the first set.

Pegula has played four matches so far in this tournament, needing only 5½ sets to record those victories. She had a first-round bye, won her next two matches in consecutive sets and her fourth-round match ended when unseeded Anhelina Kalinina retired after Pegula won the first set 6-0.

Then came Wednesday, when Badosa bowed out down 4-1. “Of course, it’s not nice to win that way,” Pegula said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever even hit with her at all and I was really looking forward to playing because she’s been having an amazing year.”

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Badosa — who was No. 71 in the world rankings at this time last year — will climb to a career-best No. 3 when the computer numbers are updated on Monday. She would have gone to No. 2 had she beaten Pegula.

Badosa stated she woke up Monday not feeling well and wasn’t even sure she could play that day in a fourth-rounder versus Linda Fruhvirtova.

Badosa battled through, winning that match 6-2, 6-3, but was clearly not herself on Wednesday.

“She’s an incredible competitor,” Pegula said. “I think we all saw that last round where she clearly wasn’t feeling well and she was able to tough it out. I admire that a lot and hopefully next time we can both play when we’re healthy and feeling good and have a great match.”

Pegula will next face No. 2 Iga Swiatek — who becomes No. 1 in the world rankings on Monday — in Thursday night’s semifinals. Swiatek ousted No. 28 Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-3 in the last women’s quarterfinal.

The other women’s semifinal is Thursday afternoon, when No. 22 Belinda Bencic will face unseeded Naomi Osaka.

Pegula has spent a total of 3 hours, 22 minutes on court in her four matches. That’s only four minutes more than it took for the Buffalo Bills to beat the Miami Dolphins 35-0 at Hard Rock Stadium last September, a game Pegula knows a little something about — since her parents own the Bills.

The Dolphins’ sprawling facility — which will also play host to a Formula One race later this spring — is the home of the Miami Open and the stadium court is inside Hard Rock Stadium. Other courts are built where parking lots around the stadium used to be, but the court where Pegula played Wednesday is a temporary structure constructed atop where the Dolphins’ field usually is.

“I’ve been here before, on this field, in a different scenario,” Pegula said. “But I’m sure we have some Bills fans here, so it’s nice to get another victory in this stadium.”

The quick end of the Pegula-Badosa match meant the stadium court sat empty for nearly two hours, until No. 9 Jannik Sinner — a finalist in Miami last year — faced unseeded Francisco Cerundolo in a men’s quarterfinal.

And after 22 minutes, that match was over — also in just five games. Cerundolo advanced when Sinner, down 4-1, retired with a blister on his right foot. “I couldn’t move. … I tried, but it didn’t work,” Sinner said.

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Naomi Osaka cruises past Astra Sharma in first round of Miami Open

Naomi Osaka was greeted by some cheers when she walked onto the court, then got significantly louder ones when her work for the day was done.

Maybe the comforts of home helped.

Flashing the level of play that vaulted her to No. 1 in the world not too long ago, Osaka had little trouble in defeating Astra Sharma of Australia 6-3, 6-4 on Wednesday — the first full day of play at the Miami Open.

Osaka is Japanese-born, calls California home now, but spent much of her youth in South Florida, basically just a few miles north of where the Miami Open is now held.

“I kind of consider this like my home tournament,” Osaka said, before her words got drowned out by more cheers and applause from fans. “This is the tournament that I loved coming to once a year. I’m just really happy to be back out here.”

It was Osaka’s first match since a March 12 loss at Indian Wells, when she was rattled by a derogatory shout from a spectator. If any similar thoughts were expressed by the fans who were watching Wednesday in a largely empty stadium court built over the field where the NFL’s Miami Dolphins play football, they either were ignored or unnoticed.

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“Honestly, for me, I just didn’t want to let anything bother me today no matter what happened,” Osaka said. “The last match that I played was not the greatest memory for me.”

That’s when someone decided to yell from the stands: “We love you.”

Osaka surely appreciated that sentiment.

She revealed Wednesday that she started seeing a therapist after Indian Wells

“it only took like a year after French Open,” she quipped, referring to how she missed the clay-court Grand Slam event to focus on her mental health last year — and that she was bracing to hear heckling.

“I’m glad that I have people around me that told me to go in that direction,” Osaka said. “I was basically just remembering all the things that she told me to do, just to take deep breaths and reset myself when I need to.”

Osaka will face No. 13 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany — like Osaka, another former world No. 1 — in the second round Thursday. Kerber, like all 32 seeds in the 96-player singles field, had a bye out of the first round. Kerber is 4-1 head-to-head versus Osaka.

Osaka improved to 7-2 this year, not counting a walkover loss at Melbourne in early January when she withdrew from an Australian Open warmup event with an abdominal injury.

She’s ranked No. 77 in the world largely because she hasn’t entered many events in the last year, though among active players — if Ashleigh Barty is no longer considered one after her surprising retirement announcement — Osaka is the most recent to hold the No. 1 ranking. Barty supplanted her in the top spot on Sept. 9, 2019, and has held that ranking since.

Osaka has openly talked about struggling with depression and working on her mental health since winning the 2018 US Open over Serena Williams. She withdrew from last year’s French Open, left last year’s US Open in tears and was brought to tears again by the comment from a spectator at Indian Wells earlier this month.

“I just wanted to prove that I could come back out here and compete,” Osaka said.

Also Wednesday, 2018 Miami champion Sloane Stephens earned a second-round matchup versus fellow American Jessica Pegula by topping Hungary’s Panna Udvardy 6-4, 6-3. And Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania topped Hailey Baptiste of the U.S. 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-1 to move into a second-round matchup versus women’s No. 1 seed Aryna Sabalenka.

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Naomi Osaka rallies past Sloane Stephens in return at Indian Wells

Naomi Osaka made a winning return to the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday, rallying to defeat Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in a first-round meeting of former major champions.

Trailing 2-0 in the third set, Osaka fought off three break points to hold and begin a run of six consecutive games to close out the match in just under two hours. She broke Stephens three times in the set, including at love in the sixth game.

“That was a really good test for me,” Osaka said.

Cold winds blowing from 20 to 30 mph sent debris swirling around the court.

“I felt like I was fighting for my life. I was fighting against her, I was fighting against the wind. It was crazy,” Osaka said.

“I’m really proud with how I handled it.” Osaka, the 2018 winner at Indian Wells, is back in the desert for the first time since 2019. The Japanese star hadn’t played a tournament since January when she lost in the round of 32 at the Australian Open.

Having played only a handful of events last year, her ranking has dropped to 78th in the world.

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“I keep taking these long breaks,” she said. “I do need to play a lot more matches and I do need to give myself the opportunity to get more into the swing of things.”

Osaka has stated she has faced bouts of depression since winning the US Open in 2018.

The four-time major champion withdrew from the French Open last year to preserve her mental health.

Stephens, the 2017 US Open winner, lost for the first time in three career meetings with Osaka. The American’s ranking has dropped to 38th, although she was coming off a win in the tournament at Guadalajara, Mexico, last month.

Other first-round winners were Yulia Putintseva, Daria Saville and Tereza Martincova. Shelby Rogers, an Indian Wells quarterfinalist last year, needed nearly three hours to get by Nuria Parrizas Diaz 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (3).

In men’s first-round matches, Americans Mackenzie McDonald, Jenson Brooksby, Jack Sock and J.J. Wolf all won.

Christopher Eubanks saved three match points in outlasting Maxime Cressy 5-7, 7-6 (8), 6-4 in an all-American matchup. Nick Kyrgios, who received a wild card, beat Sebastian Baez 6-4, 6-0.

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Naomi Osaka, ‘just happy to be here,’ posts first-round victory at Australian Open; Coco Gauff upset by Wang Qiang

Defending champion Naomi Osaka posted a relatively trouble-free 6-3, 6-3 triumph on Monday over Camila Osorio in the first round of the Australian Open.

Osaka, the four-time Grand Slam singles champion, won at Rod Laver Arena and did so by taking the first five games of the match, before Osorio finally scratched one out herself.

Osaka will take on Madison Brengle — the American player defeated Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine 6-1, 0-6, 5-0, ret. — in the second round as she looks to build some momentum for what could be a lengthy tournament run.

The former No. 1 player in the world, Osaka slid down the rankings last year after taking time off following her withdrawal at the French Open.

She is seeded 13th at the Australian Open, where she won in 2019 and 2021.

“It always feels special to come back here,” she said after Sunday’s victory.

The early success seems promising for Osaka, as Osorio is ranked 50th in the world but was making her main draw debut at Melbourne Park.

“I thought she played amazing,” Osaka said of her opponent. “Overall, I’m just happy to be here, I’m happy to see everybody in the audience, and I hope we gave you a great performance.”

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After winning here last year, capturing her second Australian Open title in three years, Osaka pulled out of the 2021 French Open before the second round then sat out Wimbledon. She played at the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the cauldron, but ended her 2021 season early after a third-round loss and a teary news conference at the US Open.

Two of her goals for 2022, she stated last week, were to stay completely composed on the court and off, and to enjoy the game.

The first test of Osaka’s new approach to tennis might have been when she completely whiffed on an overhead to give her opponent a break point. Osaka didn’t chuck her racket. She didn’t roll her eyes. She smiled.

“There are situations where I previously would get upset. But at this point in my life, like, I’m here because I want to be here and because I find that it’s fun for me,” Osaka said. “Might as well enjoy it while I still can.”

Elsewhere on the women’s side, China’s Wang Qiang secured her first victory over a top-20 player since defeating Serena Williams at Melbourne Park in 2020 after upsetting 18th-seeded Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-2.

It was Wang’s first victory on tour since last year’s French Open, where she beat Su-Wei Hsieh in the first round before losing to Gauff in the second.

Gauff saved four match points from 5-0 down on Monday, but that was the only good news in a match in which the American made 38 unforced errors.

“You know I lost two times against her last year, so I just tried my best to focus on court,” Wang said.

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Naomi Osaka upset in second round of Western & Southern Open by No. 76 Jil Teichmann

Naomi Osaka’s first WTA tour appearance since the French Open in late May did not last long.

The second-ranked Osaka sprayed balls all over the court in a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 loss to No. 76 Jil Teichmann on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open.

Osaka repeatedly punched her left thigh with her left wrist and talked loudly to herself, trying to get herself going, but she was impassive as she shook hands at the net with the exuberant Teichmann.

Meanwhile, top-ranked Ash Barty rolled through the first 10 games of her match with defending champion Victoria Azarenka in a 6-0, 6-2 victory to reach the women’s quarterfinals.

“I think sometimes the scoreline in tennis can fool you,” Barty said. “Though it seemed like a quite convincing scoreline in the match, each and every game had crucial points and I was able to win most of those.”

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Former tournament women’s champion Karolina Pliskova advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory over Jessica Pegula. Olympic champion and third-seeded Alexander Zverev also moved on, defeating Guido Pella 6-2, 6-3, while Roland Garros-finalist and second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas was pushed by Lorenzo Sonego to three sets before prevailing, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

Medvedev bounced back up after a nasty fall early in the second set and went on to close out the win.

“You can’t see this on video, but my racket got between my legs and hit the back of my calf,” Medvedev said. “I don’t know how that happens. I actually have a bruise on my calf. A bruise is a bruise. It’s nothing serious.”

The second-ranked Russian, the winner last week in Toronto, won when Dimitrov double-faulted on match point. Medvedev has been on the court for only 2 hours, 28 minutes while winning his first two matches in consecutive sets after a first-round bye.

Medvedev is the first player not named Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray to crack the top two since July 18, 2005. Injuries and other issues kept Djokovic, Federer and Nadal from competing this year.

While his matches have been short, Medvedev feels winning will go a long way. “The more matches I can win in these two tournaments that are similar to New York, the more confidence you have,” he said.

“Confidence is the big key. It’s good coming there knowing that you’re capable of playing good. Now, I know it’s possible. A Grand Slam is a Grand Slam. They’re tough. Opponents want to beat you. You hope you show your best tennis.”

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Naomi Osaka ousted from Olympic tennis tournament in 3rd round by Marketa Vondrousova

It wasn’t the ending that tennis superstar Naomi Osaka — nor her fans across Japan and worldwide — had expected for the Tokyo Olympics.

Osaka lost to former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4 in the third round of the Olympic tennis tournament on Tuesday.

“I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” said Osaka, who called lighting the Olympic cauldron during last week’s opening ceremony in Tokyo “undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life.”

As the highest-paid female athlete in the world and the host country’s face of the Games, the huge expectations were hard to handle. “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,” Osaka said. “I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year [it] was a bit much.”

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The second-ranked Osaka, who was born in Japan and grew up in the United States, struggled with her usually reliable groundstrokes, while the left-handed Vondrousova produced a series of drop-shot winners and other crafty shots that drew her opponent out of her comfort zone.

“It’s tough for her also playing in Japan and in the Olympics,” the 42nd-ranked Vondrousova said. “It’s so much pressure, I cannot imagine.”

Osaka won her opening two matches in consecutive sets following a two-month mental health break. But conditions were different Tuesday with the roof closed because it was raining outside.

Osaka had talked earlier this week about how “happy” she was to be playing again. That came after she announced in May going into the French Open that she wouldn’t speak to reporters at that tournament, saying those interactions create doubts for her.

“I’ve taken long breaks before and I’ve managed to do well,” said Osaka, who initially did not comment after her loss, then came back out and met with a small group of reporters. “I’m not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher.

“I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure, so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”

Playing Osaka for the first time, Vondrousova came out with her entire game clicking from the start and quickly ran out to a 4-0 lead in the first set as Osaka hardly had time to gather herself.

Osaka then broke Vondrousova’s serve in the opening game of the second set but almost immediately handed the break back when she double-faulted to make it 2-2.

After Osaka lost her serve again to end the match by hitting a cross-court backhand wide, she shook hands with Vondrousova at the net, walked to her chair, zipped her racket up in her bag and followed Vondrousova off the court.

But it wasn’t simply an off day for Osaka; it was also an outstanding performance from Vondrousova.

“I also [beat] Simona [Halep] twice, but I think now she [Osaka] is the greatest,” Vondrousova said. “The greatest in the game, and she was also the face of the Olympics, so it was tough for her, I think, to play like this.”

During one point midway through the second set, Vondrousova hit an underspin, scooped forehand approach shot that landed right on the line — prompting Osaka to stare at the line for a few seconds in apparent disbelief.

Osaka had break points to take a 4-3 lead in the second, but Vondrousova hit consecutive drop-shot winners to get back in the game. And then held.

About 10 minutes later, the match was over.

“I just really believed the second I stepped on the court,” Vondrousova said. “I think that that’s the main thing.” Vondrousova’s quarterfinal opponent will be either Paula Badosa of Spain or Nadia Podoroska of Argentina.

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Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic cruise into third round of Olympic tennis tournament

Naomi Osaka has the hopes of the entire host nation resting on her.

Novak Djokovic is trying to accomplish something that no man has done before in tennis.

Both players are after something special at the Tokyo Olympics, and both produced convincing triumphs Monday to reach the last 16 at Ariake Tennis Park.

Osaka crushed winners off both wings — forehand and backhand — seemingly at will in a 6-3, 6-2 victory over 49th-ranked Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland. Then Djokovic dispatched 48th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 6-4, 6-3.

“There’s a lot of attention towards tennis as a sport in this Olympic Games,” Djokovic said. “We are grateful, because we are representing our country, ourselves, but also our sport in the Olympic Village.”

Despite this being her first tournament back from a two-month mental health break, Osaka’s strong start is hardly a surprise considering that the Olympic tournament is being played on hard courts — the surface on which she has won all four of her Grand Slam titles.

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It was similar to the way Osaka overwhelmed Saisai Zheng of China a day earlier, and it extended her momentum after carrying out the ultimate honor at the Games’ opening ceremony by lighting the Olympic cauldron.

The Japanese superstar, who grew up in the United States, was asked in March to handle the flame honors but said she “didn’t feel pressure” about the assignment.

“I felt more excitement,” Osaka said. “It was like a sense of duty, like something I wanted to accomplish.

“It’s something that you see as a kid on TV. You gather around the TV with your family at the Olympics and you watch the whole ceremony,” Osaka added. “I know my grandparents were probably crying, and my mom, of course.”

If Djokovic can win four more matches, he’ll not only have won his first Olympic title, he’ll also be four-fifths of the way to a Golden Slam — victories in all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in the same calendar year.

The Serb already collected the Australian and French Opens as well as Wimbledon this year.

Now he needs the Tokyo title and the US Open trophy to complete the unique collection.

Steffi Graf was the only tennis player to achieve the Golden Slam in 1988.

“I’m obviously very pumped and inspired to make history,” Djokovic said. “I have that guiding star that is there and I see it and it gives me light and it gives me energy, but at the same time I better stick to the stuff that I know works well on a daily basis for me.”

Djokovic’s next opponent will be 16th-seeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, who defeated John Millman of Australia 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3.

This is Osaka’s first event since she withdrew from the French Open in May, revealing that she has dealt with depression. She then sat out Wimbledon.

Two more victories and Osaka will be in line for more honors in her Olympic debut — a medal.

“Definitely it would mean a lot for me but I know it’s a process,” Osaka said. “The flag is next to my name no matter what tournament I play, but I feel like the scale of this is much bigger. It’s something I’ve been waiting for for eight years [since she turned pro in 2013].”

The second-ranked Osaka will next face 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who beat Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 6-1, 6-2.

In windier, cooler and more overcast conditions than the sweltering opening two days of the competition, Osaka compiled 29 winners to Golubic’s 14 and had only 11 unforced errors to her opponent’s 21.

Perhaps more telling was that Osaka required only 65 minutes to dispatch a player coming off a quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon.

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Roger Federer, Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams entered in US Open singles field

Roger Federer, who withdrew from the Olympics because a knee injury, and Naomi Osaka, who skipped Wimbledon and withdrew from the French Open to address her mental health, are both in the singles fields for the US Open.

The USTA revealed the fields Wednesday for the tournament that runs from Aug. 30 through Sept. 12 in New York.

Federer lost in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Osaka has not played a match since withdrawing after the first round in Paris. Also in the field at Flushing Meadows: six-time champion Serena Williams, who had to retire from her first-round match at Wimbledon after she slipped on the Centre Court grass, injuring her right leg.

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The entry lists include players who make the field automatically. Players still can withdraw from the tournament.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon, will be seeking to become the third man to collect all four Grand Slam singles titles in the same year. Don Budge in 1938 and Rod Laver in 1969 are the others.

Djokovic is also playing at the Tokyo Olympics and could become the first man to complete a “Golden Slam.” Steffi Graf did it in 1988.

Wimbledon champion and No. 1-ranked Ash Barty headlines the women’s field. Osaka, the defending US Open champion, is ranked second ahead of Aryna Sabalenka, a Wimbledon semifinalist, and Sofia Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion.

This week’s ATP and WTA rankings were used to determine the entry lists. Seedings will be revealed closer to the beginning of the tournament.

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Naomi Osaka fined $15K for not speaking to French Open media, could face tourney default for avoiding press

Naomi Osaka has been fined $15,000 after skipping her required news conference following her first-round victory at the French Open on Sunday and could face stiffer punishment, including default from the tournament, if she continues to avoid speaking to the media.

In a joint statement from the four Grand Slam tournaments, the organizations said they had written to Osaka after she revealed she would not be participating in her media obligations during the fortnight and reminded her of the consequences stated in the 2021 rulebook should she opt out.

The four tournaments, which also involve Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open, said there would be further and greater consequences if she continues to decline her media obligations.

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“As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament (Code of Conduct article III T.) and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions (Code of Conduct article IV A.3.),” the statement read.

The Slams said the decision was a matter of fairness.

“We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement,” read the statement.

“As a sport there is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honor their commitments.”

The organizations called the engagement of players with the media a “core element of the Grand Slam regulations” and an essential part of the sport’s continued growth.

The statement also referenced Osaka’s citing of her mental health in her decision to not speak with the media and said it was a priority of the tournaments. The second-seeded Osaka defeated Patricia Maria Tig 6-4, 7-6 (4) on Court Philippe Chatrier on Sunday.

She participated in an on-court interview following the victory and called her game on clay a “work in progress.”

She will face Ana Bogdan on Tuesday in the second round.

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