Naomi Osaka's calls for revamped media interactions bear fruit as Iga Swiatek opts out of in-person press conference at WTA Finals

Iga Swiatek at the 2021 WTA Finals.
Iga Swiatek at the 2021 WTA Finals.
Rohit R

Naomi Osaka's decision to boycott press conferences during this year's French Open to protect her mental health appears to have finally brought about a change in the nature of media interactions.

During the ongoing WTA Finals, Iga Swiatek was allowed to opt-out of an in-person press conference following her loss to Maria Sakkari. The Pole was instead allowed to answer questions sent to her by journalists without directly interacting with them.

No in-person press conference from Swiatek, who will instead be providing quotes that will be disseminated to journalists.A new accommodation stemming from Naomi Osaka's advocacy for a more holistic approach to post-match press which, frankly, I'm fine with.

Swiatek's debut at the WTA Finals did not go according to plan as the 2020 Roland Garros champion was outclassed by Sakkari in her opening round-robin match. The Pole was unable to control her emotions after her straight-sets defeat and was even comforted by the Greek as they embraced at the net.

Sakkari admitted she felt bad watching Swiatek struggle to compose herself after the match.

"I saw that she was struggling. It wasn't a nice thing to see from the other side of the net," Sakkari said. "She's a very, very nice girl. We always have great practices and great chats. It was something natural."

Swiatek said she was "frustrated and sad" that she couldn't deal with the pressure of her WTA Finals debut.

"I was just frustrated and sad that I couldn't overcome the stress. I keep, like, forgetting I still have time to learn to do that because playing in the Finals for me it feels like I know a lot about sports, which is maybe sometimes not true because I still haven't been in many situations in those moments," Swiatek said.
"When I forget this is new for me, still it's okay to lose some matches because of the stress," she added.

Naomi Osaka's decision to boycott press conferences sparked a conversation on mental health in sports

Naomi Osaka at the 2021 Western & Southern Open.
Naomi Osaka at the 2021 Western & Southern Open.

When Naomi Osaka decided to skip press conferences during Roland Garros to safeguard her mental health, she said she also wanted to bring about a change in how press conferences are conducted.

Athletes across various disciplines have praised the four-time Grand Slam champion for raising awareness on the issue, with the likes of Simone Biles following the Japanese's lead and withdrawing from events to protect her mental wellbeing.

Naomi Osaka decided to take another hiatus from the sport following her third-round loss to eventual finalist Leylah Fernandez at the US Open. Osaka revealed that she didn't enjoy competing anymore.

The 24-year-old, however, recently posted pictures of herself practicing, hinting at an imminent return to action.

Edited by Arvind Sriram
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