The trigger reportedly was a question from longtime Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist Paul Daugherty in a session for the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, which got underway today.
According to New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg, things went smoothly for about four questions until Daughtery asked what Rothenberg called a “a fairly aggressively toned question about how she benefits from a high-media profile but doesn’t like talking to media.”
That’s when Osaka began to cry and eventually needed to step away from the podium.
Osaka pulled out of the French Open back in May after she was fined for skipping post-match media sessions. In her statement announcing her withdrawal, Osaka revealed she’s suffered from “long bouts of depression” since her breakthrough 2018 US Open win. She also explained, “I get huge bouts of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.”
Rothenberg says Osaka did come back to finish off today’s press conference, which she gave ahead of her appearance at the Ohio WTA tournament.
Osaka announced over the weekend that she would give all of her prize money from the tournament to relief efforts for Haiti. She also posted a tweet on Sunday thanking fans for staying to watch her practice saying, “I was really nervous cause it was my first practice in front of a lot of people since COVID started.”
Thank you to everyone that stayed and watched my practice at @CincyTennis I was really nervous cause it was my first practice in front of a lot of people since COVID started but it was really nice to see everyone again ☺️❤️
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) August 15, 2021
The Enquirer‘s Daugherty, who asked the question, has not spoken or posted anything yet about the interaction, but his bio on his Twitter page states, “I provoke honestly and always have the backs of the fans.”
Osaka’s agent, Stuart Duguid, slammed the reporter in a statement posted by Rothenberg: “The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now. Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior.”
Duguid added, “And this insinuation that Naomi owes her off-court success to the media is a myth – don’t be so self-indulgent.”
Naomi Osaka's agent Stuart Duguid:
"The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player / media relations are so fraught right now. Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior."(1/2)
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 16, 2021