Almanac Tennis: While the Hawks are having a bad year, let’s look at the tennis

 

 

 

Readers would notice I haven’t written much about Hawthorn this year.  Mostly because there’s nothing to write other than this weekend when they won’t be beaten as they have a bye!

 

This has got me thinking about other sports and in particular tennis as the French Open nears the start of the second week.  I was disappointed that Ash Barty’s injury forced her out. But I was especially disappointed that Naomi Osaka felt that the only way she could manage her mental health and well-being was to withdraw entirely from the tournament. This was after she was fined $US15,000 for not participating in a press conference after her first-round win.

 

Let’s have a look at the issues around Naomi.  The British TV ‘personality’, Piers Morgan, described Naomi as a spoiled brat who had used the media for financial gain.  His ranting continued and involved comparisons with Meghan Markle, and I won’t bother with his insulting slurs.

 

Others have suggested that she needs to toughen up because she has made a huge amount of money from tennis.  Let’s look at how the demands on Naomi, and tennis players generally, compare with other high-profile people.

 

According to that trusted source, Wikipedia, Naomi has won nearly $US20m in prize money.  I’m guessing that endorsements for clothing and other products add significantly to her income.  She is currently ranked No. 2 in the world (behind ‘our’ Ash) and has won four grand slam titles.  She is just twenty-three years of age.

 

Wikimedia Commons

 

According to a report in The Age last year, there were nine AFL players who were paid more than $1m per annum.  It’s more problematic to figure out how much coaches are paid but the current requirement is that they will turn up for a press conference after every game.  This is because they are key leaders of their clubs.  There is no compulsion for any of those nine well-paid players to attend and participate in press conferences, even though they are making a fabulous income out of their sport (as Naomi is).  Indeed, if the media want access to any player, they must approach the media team for the relevant club and then get the player to agree.

 

Similarly, there is no compulsion for golf players to turn up to a press conference after they’ve missed the hole in one.  And I note that the tennis requirement is that you must show up whether you win or lose.  It might also be worth mentioning here that Serena Williams fronted up to a press conference after she lost in this year’s semi in the Australian Open. She left that press conference in floods of tears after being quizzed about her future in tennis.

 

Looking outside of sport, I can’t remember when Gerry Harvey, who apparently has a net worth of $US2 billion, turned up to a press conference to explain why he didn’t repay job keeper when he thrived during the pandemic lock down during 2020.  He makes a truck-load of money from Australian shoppers so I wonder why the similar expectation isn’t there?

 

Australian Government ministers will hold press conferences when they feel like it, yet they are well paid.  If they take questions, they only answer the ones they want to answer and they are not fined.

 

As a twenty-three-year-old, I would have been a dribbling mess turning up at a press conference.  In my senior years, I have done plenty of interviews with the press on a range of matters because as a CEO or a Tribunal Chair or a Board member I am well qualified and now adept at doing these things. Yes, they are stressful – particularly as Chair of the Remuneration Tribunal when a decision had been made to increase the pay for politicians or judges! But, if I didn’t want to do an interview, I wouldn’t.

 

We, the sporting public, have watched plenty of train wrecks of interviews that have been conducted under this compulsory regime.  Think Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic.  Yes, they were dills (perhaps they still are), but is it fair to take advantage of their naivety/stupidity just because they’ve won through to the next round, or indeed lost?  It is not an understatement to say that some interviews have negatively impacted careers along the way.

 

Naomi has always been gracious and fair in her interviews.  Some say that because she didn’t show any anxiety, she must have been ok.

 

I think it’s time for a re-think on compulsory press conferences. There may be players who are happy to continue to front up to the media, but equally, there are players who for a range of reasons find the whole thing confrontational and more stressful than the match itself.  Grand Slam tournaments really need to reconsider this matter now that Naomi has been brave enough to come out and explain why she doesn’t want to continue.

 

It would be a great tragedy to lose players such as Naomi to the sport just because of this silly rule.  The media have many opportunities to collect stories and snippets, but subjecting players to compulsory press conferences is not the way to go.

 

 

 

Read more from Anne Cahill Lambert HERE.

 

 

The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE

 

 

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About Anne Cahill Lambert

One of the first females to be admitted to membership of the G. Thank you Mr Cain. Nicknamed The Hyphen by Alamanac Editor, despite the fact I don't have one.

Comments

  1. Well said Anne.
    It is appalling the way that some have responded to her decision.
    Surely it is more important to have the best players engaged at the business end of a grand slam tournament than worrying about whether or not they wish to speak to the press.
    In explaining the reasons for her press conference boycott, and subsequent withdrawal, Naomi Osaka has displayed more honesty than is on show in most post-match press conferences.

  2. Hi Anne, i’m still trying to think through the situation with Naomi Osaka. In our 24/7 world where the entertainment industry is so pivotal, news conferences are accepted as a given. Their purpose? As an older person I reckon the proliferation of post match interviews coincided with the advent of Kerry Packer’s WSC. Prior to then you’d have some interviews on World Of Sport, or re tennis the champion would be interviewed at the end of the tournament. Interviews were the exception,not the rule.

    Naomi has previously spoken of her struggles with depression. Depression is one of the disorders under the umbrella of mood disorders, including bi-polar, dysthymia, and depression. This group of afflictions impacts upon 10% of the worlds population. As it is at any given time an estimated one in five of us Australians experience a mental health problem, of which mood disorders are amongst the most common.Sadly the difficulties Naomi Osaka encountered are not unique.

    Let’s hope Naomi gets through her current situation,and the world can enjoy many years of her tennis wizardry.

    As I alluded to earlier mental health problems are prevalent in our world. As a health professional i’m not adverse to providing advice. I’ve possibly mentioned Mental Health First Aid on this site over the years, but i recommend it as a really helpful support for anyone experiencing mental health problems. Here’s a link.
    htt
    ps://mhfa.com.au/

    Glen!

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