In last week's interview with GQ, Roger Federer backed Naomi Osaka's claims that the press conference format has stagnated in tennis. And now, Andy Roddick has thrown his weight behind the divisive stance of Federer and Osaka.
Naomi Osaka had given a detailed take on press conferences through an article published by Time Magazine a couple of months ago. The Japanese had pointed out then that contrary to what her boycott of press conferences at Roland Garros suggested, she didn't have a problem with any members of the press. Instead, she stressed that press conferences need a shake-up to make them more player-friendly.
Roger Federer conveyed similar thoughts while speaking to GQ. The Swiss highlighted that the format of press conferences needs to be "reconsidered" given that they all end up looking and feeling the same.
In response to Federer's take, noted journalist Christopher Clarey put out a tweet on Monday claiming that such reconsideration shouldn't restrict the freedom of journalists. Andy Roddick took Clarey's tweet as an opportunity to weigh in, asserting in his reply that "innovation" was the need of the hour for press conferences.
Roddick went on to highlight the inadequacies of press conferences in the modern era, pointing out how players these days can speak their minds on social media. The former World No. 1 even drew an analogy between press conferences and renting movies at a store, suggesting that social media is the equivalent of Netflix.
"Innovation needs to happen," Roddick said. "We’ve continued with the same old practices, even though all players need now (for better or worse) to get their message out is their phone, and a thought ….. it would be like renting movies at a store even though you have Netflix. It’s nonsensical."
A Twitter user then tried to refute Andy Roddick's claims by referring to how two teenagers - Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu - had no problems dealing with the media earlier this month. In response, Roddick explained that not everyone is built the same.
The former US Open champion pointed out that while he himself found it easier to deal with the media than Naomi Osaka does, there were several things that the Japanese did better than him.
"Because not everyone struggles with the same things? Press was the easy part for me, but there are obviously many, many, many things about the actual tennis of things that Naomi does 10x better than I did," Roddick said. "Let’s not be simple with a complex issue."
Tennis commentator Mark Petchey then waded in, claiming that it is "nonsensical" how journalists' access has decreased rather than increased over the last 20 years. In response, Andy Roddick pointed out that tennis players are independent contractors, which means they shouldn't made to suffer just to achieve a certain predetermined goal.
"But the players are technically independent contractors Mark," Roddick wrote. "I agree w and understand your point, but the variables need to equal the simple answer. You don’t start at the answer and then correct variables. Fact is that there’s a huge leverage point w social mediums."
"And for very specific reasons, the tours have kept players as independent contractors," he continued. "No salaries involved, and more importantly, no independent representation from the tournaments…. Tough to have it all ways, and use accordingly when convenient."
Mark Petchey countered that claiming that when a Grand Slam champion earns US$2.5million for just two weeks of work, they shouldn't be saying no their media obligations. Petchey also suggested that without "real meaningful content" and "access", the income of tennis tournaments would reduce and with it the prize money of the players too.
Andy Roddick responded that Petchey was only "proving his point". He pointed out that tennis players' income is tied to TV revenue, and yet they are not allowed to have any negotiations with broadcasters. He then suggested that players should be given a seat at the table so that they have more of a say in how their time is used.
"You’re proving my point," Roddick wrote. "It’s a broken model. How is TV gonna negotiate w tour, tour says we are independent contractors, but then promises to sell our time to TV? In no other business is that acceptable without a negotiation between entities."
"Maybe it’s as simple as separate player representation having a seat at the table, and not hearing about the negotiations after the fact? We can’t be shocked that players are now executing new leverage points. Doing more of what got us here isn’t a solution."
Mark Petchey relented after that, saying that he agrees that things have to change. He did lament how "dire" the access is right now, but expressed hope that with people like Andy Roddick showing that they care, the tennis world might be able to find some solutions.
Roddick then closed the debate by admitting that he and the rest of the people currently in the media need to be "better" at their job. He also claimed that while someone like Naomi Osaka doesn't want to talk much, there are other players who do.
The American went on to say that the landscape has changed in the last 10 years, and that it is important to not ignore that while trying to come up with solutions.
"It definitely means that those of us in the media game need to be better at our jobs," Roddick wrote. "Would be a good start. We can’t tell people how much to talk. For every Naomi there are 10 players that want to give the time. The stories are out there."
"I think we both want to see as much access as possible," he added. "We just have to realize the hurdles, how the landscape has shifted, and improve experience on both sides. There’s been an obvious shift in a players options to deliver a message over last 10 years. We can’t pretend that away."
What did Roger Federer say about Naomi Osaka's stance on press conferences exactly?
There are many on social media who believe that Roger Federer's comments do not prove he was backing Naomi Osaka's stance against press conferences. Before going any further, let us take a look at what Osaka wrote about press conferences in her article for Time Magazine.
"This (the Roland Garros debacle) was never about the press, but rather the traditional format of the press conference," Naomi Osaka wrote. "I’ll say it again for those at the back: I love the press; I do not love all press conferences."
"I have always enjoyed an amazing relationship with the media and have given numerous in-depth, one-on-one interviews," she added. "However, in my opinion (and I want to say that this is just my opinion and not that of every tennis player on tour), the press-conference format itself is out of date and in great need of a refresh. I believe that we can make it better, more interesting and more enjoyable for each side. Less subject vs. object; more peer to peer."
Naomi Osaka's comments clearly show that her issue stems from the format of press conferences and not from any section of the media itself.
Now, let's take a look at what Roger Federer said in his interview for the GQ Magazine:
"The stress is so great," Federer said. "And I think a lot has to be down to social media. The first 10 years of my life there was no social media, maybe I had just a website, then the next 10 years social media was everywhere."
"Also, in regards to this, the press situation does need to be reconsidered," he added. "I think I’m one of the athletes who’s done the most press – ever! And I agree that it's always the same. Always."
From these comments, it is clear that Federer agrees with Osaka about how press conferences have remained the same for years and are in sore need of change. The fact that the Swiss mentioned the sheer volume of press conferences he has done throughout his career doesn't mean he is happy with them. Instead, by using the words "always the same", Federer is implying that the format has stagnated over the years.