“Think We Did Very, Very Well”: President FFT Defends Handling of Naomi Osaka Row at French Open 2021

Published 06/12/2021, 6:13 AM EDT
Tennis -WTA Premier 5 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 12, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka in action during her second road match against Jessica Pegula of U.S. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane


Gilles Moretton, president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), has opened up on the controversy around the withdrawal of Naomi Osaka from the French Open which threatened to overshadow the tennis and take the focus away from the action on court.

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The reigning Australian Open champion and World No.2 pulled out of the women’s draw at Roland-Garros after being threatened with expulsion by the FFT in the light of her decision not to meet media obligations during the tournament.

Naomi Osaka pulled out of French Open after row over her media boycott exploded

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Despite emailing an explainer, detailing her reasons not to do press, the organizers imposed a fine of $15,000 on her and issued a statement saying she’d be putting herself at risk of being expelled if she persisted with her rigid stance vis-à-vis the media.

Left with no choice, Osaka took to Twitter to announce that she was pulling out, adding that she had been battling mental illness over the last two years and had even faced anxiety attacks before facing the media.

Calling herself an introverted person, she added that she struggles to find speech in a press room.

While her withdrawal evoked an outpouring of sympathy and support from the tennis world, many called out the FFT over its poor handling of the fiasco and letting it fester to a point where the four-time Grand Slam champion had to pull out of Roland-Garros.

Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – May 30, 2021, Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts during her first round match against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

FFT president Gilles Moretton says the goal was never to expel Osaka

Speaking to CNN news anchor Richard Quest, FFT director-general Amelie Oudea-Castera had rued the organizers’ failure in establishing a direct line of communication with Osaka in the matter.

However, in an interview with New York Times, Moretton insisted that the issue was handled “very well”.

Defending the FFT’s tough stance in the matter, he said the intention was never to expel her but be unequivocal about what the rule book states.

“I think we did very, very well,” Moretton said, adding, “The goal was not to penalize her. It was to say clearly: Here’s the rule.”

He said the organizers would have kept on penalizing her without ever getting to a stage where she had to be expelled.

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“I think we would have kept giving her fines. I don’t think we would have gone to a tougher sanction, because we understood the situation. But it’s the rule. The rule is there to be fair to all the players,” Moretton said.

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His defense apart, the controversy over Osaka’s withdrawal will continue to dog the FFT. It remains to be seen if Osaka competes at the upcoming Wimbledon Championships or if she continues with her hiatus.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

1101 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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