Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 2 of the 2021 French Open.
We’re due for a rehashing of the Naomi Osaka press conference decision, wouldn’t you say?
In the few days since the Japanese star first announced that she would forego her press availability duties at this year’s French Open, we have seen and read through a number of think pieces on the topic. (Look, we even wrote one in our French Open draw preview here.)
But now, representatives from the four Grand Slam organizers have decided to possibly forfeit Osaka at this year’s French Open as well as others where she could do the same thing? God, this is all so dumb.
What’s the big deal anyway?
In a way, this decision to forego post-match interviews was a long time coming. By and large, professional athletes don’t need the press anymore; they can reach their fans immediately on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
If they suffer a great defeat or manage a massive triumph, they can tell them directly all about it with their cellphone. They don’t need the intervention of a third party journalist from, like, ESPN to do it for them. Pretending like this isn’t true is simply avoiding the problem. (Frankly, it’s reminiscent of the reaction that media organizations had with the arrival of Internet and the threat it posed to their existence, but we digress.)
These days, professional athletes earn millions of dollars for leagues that themselves are worth millions and millions more. They don’t need to rely on the press for free publicity to grow their sport and their game because, by and large, this has already happened. There’s more to lose and less incentive to risk things by speaking to the press after matches; if you could avoid it, why wouldn’t you?
Our experience at the Rogers Cup
In a past life, we were assigned coverage of the Roger Cup in our hometown of Montreal. One time, we’ve witnessed an instance of a Top 20 player on the WTA who went to her post-match press conference after a win only to sit down and be told there were no questions for her. So she left. There’s really no need for that and it’s wildly overthinking things if you think the sport of tennis can’t survive this kind of awkward encounter.
If this is the last fork in the road for the post-match interview, so be it. The dirty little secret, anyway, is that the fun anecdotes, quotes or life stories that you love to learn from the athletes come from long-form features much more than they do the three-minute pressers after a third round win in Cincinnati.
Ultimately, we believe it’s good to see someone like Osaka wield the immense power and influence she possesses. She sees a problem and undertakes the steps to help her mental health. Imagine having a problem with this and threatening the player with more fines and more severe punishment.
What’s the expression? Not seeing the forest for the trees? Yeah, that.
Day 2 preview
As always, we finish today’s column about the three matches we want to highlight on the day’s slate. You can find the entire day 2 schedule by clicking here.
Court Philippe-Chatrier: Kaja Juvan vs Iga Swiatek  (First match of the day)
Look, the case for watching Iga Swiatek play tennis is pretty simple: she’s the defending French Open champion and clay court is probably her best surface. She’s a generational talent who’s somehow been blessed with precocious results too. Watch her play every chance you get.
Court Philippe-Chatrier: Alexander Bublik vs Daniil Medvedev  (Second match of the day)
That said, we do have a great reason to watch the great Daniil Medvedev: it’s because he turns into a proverbial pumpkin whenever he does need to play a clay court match. Every clay court match becomes an adventure for the Russian, who’s just as likely to hang with the best players than he is to lose to, say, an Alexander Bublik.
Medvedev hates clay and he doesn’t hide it. It’s inspiring.
Court Philippe-Chatrier: Denis Istomin [Q] vs Roger Federer  (Not before 4pm local time)
No, we are not mad and indeed choose to highlight what’s likely going to be a routine win in straight sets from Roger Federer against a qualifier. But we’re highlighting this match because seeing the great Swiss on a tennis court has become such a rare sight in recent times.
Then again, he’s not going anywhere if he keeps being this blessed. Despite having played only three matches since the 2020 Australian Open semifinals, Federer is still ranked No. 8 in the world. But sure, it’s Novak Djokovic who’s benefited the most from the pandemic. Smh.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG