Naomi Osaka pulled out of the French Open on Monday, saying it was "the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being".

The dramatic development comes in the wake of Japan's world number two declaring she would not fulfil press conference duties during the tournament at Roland Garros.

She cited mental health concerns for reaching that decision, and Osaka now says she plans a break from tennis, which may mean she does not play at Wimbledon.

In her withdrawal announcement, Osaka said she has suffered "long bouts of depression" since winning the US Open in 2018.

Grand slam chiefs surprisingly escalated the situation on Sunday by declaring that repeated violations of their code of conduct could see Osaka thrown out of the event.

Now Osaka has taken the matter into her own hands, a day after winning her first-round match.

She wrote on Twitter: "Hey everyone, this isn't a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago. I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris.

"I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.

"More importantly I would never trivialise mental health or use the term lightly.

"The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that."

Naomi Osaka's decision to boycott mandatory media interviews at the French Open has left tennis legend Billie Jean King "torn".

Osaka revealed in the build-up to the second grand slam of the year that she would not partake in media duties, stating that "people have no regard for athletes' mental health" during news conferences.

The WTA – organisers of the women's tour – encouraged the Japanese superstar to reach out for support with her mental well-being but stressed she had a "responsibility" to her sport to honour contractual commitments.

The 23-year-old conducted an on-court interview after beating Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday but did not appear at the allotted time for her post-match media conference and was hit with a $15,000 by tournament organisers, who threatened further sanctions, including a possible suspension.

King, a 12-time grand slam singles champion, took to Twitter to outline her stance on what is proving to be a contentious issue.

"I fully admire and respect what Naomi is doing with her platform, so I am a little torn as I try to learn from both sides of the situation," wrote King, a co-founder of the WTA.

"While it's important that everyone has the right to speak their truth, I have always believed that as professional athletes we have a responsibility to make ourselves available to the media.

"In our day, without the press, nobody would have known who we are or what we thought. There is no question they helped build and grow our sport to what it is today.

"I acknowledge things are very different now with social media and everyone having an immediate ability to speak their truth.

"The media still play an important role in telling our story. There is no question that the media needs to respect certain boundaries.

"But at the end of the day it is important that we respect each other and we are in this together."

Osaka plays Ana Bogdan in round two on Wednesday.

Naomi Osaka fended off Patricia Maria Tig at the French Open on Sunday, but the world number two admits she has plenty of room for improvement on clay.

Osaka has been at the centre of attention in the build-up to the tournament, with the 23-year-old refusing to attend mandatory news conferences and suggesting they were not beneficial to her mental health.

The second seed stood by her decision following a straight-sets win over Romanian Tig and was subsequently handed a $15,000 fine and warned repeat offences could see her thrown out of the competition.

However, Osaka did speak in an on-court interview after her 6-4 7-6 (7-4) victory on Court Philippe-Chatrier– just her second win of the season on clay.

"I'd say it’s a work on progress," four-time grand slam winner Osaka said when asked about her clay-court game.

"Hopefully, the more I play the better it'll get. I'm really glad that I won, it's a very beautiful court. I've only played two matches here – one before the roof [was installed] and one right now. Hopefully I'll keep it going."

Next up for reigning US and Australian Open champion Osaka is Ana Bogdan, who defeated Elisabetta Cocciaretto 6-1 6-3.

ANOTHER FRENCH OPEN DUCK FOR KERBER

While Osaka took a place in round two, former world number one Angelique Kerber had no such luck as she came unstuck in the first round at Roland Garros for a third year running.

Now ranked at 27th in the world by the WTA, Kerber lost 6-2 6-4 to qualifier Anhelina Kalinina.

The French Open title has so far eluded Kerber, who has won every other grand slam, and the 33-year-old German has not won a match in Paris since 2018, when she reached the quarter-finals, having also made the last eight in 2012.

Indeed, the 33-year-old's run to the quarters in 2018 was the only time in her last six appearances at Roland Garros that she has progressed beyond the first round.

"She started well and had nothing to lose, while it took me too long to get into the contest," Kerber said. "I will try to learn from the match now because I played good the last few weeks and I had good matches."

SABALENKA AND KVITOVA BATTLE THROUGH

Aryna Sabalenka was the other top seed in action on Sunday, though she was made to work for a 6-4 6-3 defeat of Ana Konjuh.

The third seed, who is in the hunt for a first grand slam title having already won the Madrid Open this month, made a sluggish start and two breaks of serve had her 4-2 down to world number 144 Konjuh.

But Sabalenka rallied herself and a streak of four straight games handed her the set, and a further three successive breaks to start the second put her in command.

Konjuh managed to save the first match point, only for the Croatian qualifier to hit the net as Sabalenka progressed at the second time of asking.

Petra Kvitova, the 11th seed, needed three sets to overcome Greet Minnen 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-5) 6-1, and had to save a match point in the process.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova was on the edge of a shock exit at 6-5 and a break down in the second set, but a backhand winner rescued her from the brink and forced another tie-break, which the Czech won before carrying the momentum into the decider.

"I would say that from my side it wasn't really good from the beginning," said Kvitova, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros last year.

"I was struggling, I was missing a lot, I was double-faulting a lot.

"I didn't really feel myself that well. I was pretty tight, it was really tough. I mean, I was fighting not only with her but with myself as well. I'm glad that in the end I beat myself as well and beat her, so that counts."

Kvitova will next face Elena Vesnina, who beat lucky loser Olga Govortsova 6-1 6-0 to seal a first singles win since she became a mother in 2018 and took a two-year break from tennis.

Naomi Osaka has been fined and threatened with possible expulsion from the French Open after choosing not to take part in mandatory media interviews at the tournament.

Osaka declared her intentions in the build-up to the second grand slam of the year, stating that "people have no regard for athletes' mental health" during news conferences.

The WTA – organisers of the women's tour – encouraged the Japanese superstar to reach out for support with her mental well-being but stressed she had a "responsibility" to her sport to honour contractual commitments.

The 23-year-old conducted an on-court interview after beating Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday but did not appear at the allotted time for her post-match media conference.

Tournament organisers have fined Osaka $15,000 for breaching their code of conduct and warned she could be defaulted from the French Open – and face possible suspensions from other majors – should she continue a media blackout.

Osaka, holder of the US Open and Australian Open titles, has previously said any such fines should go towards a mental health charity.

A statement on the French Open's official website read: "Naomi Osaka announced last Wednesday on social media that she would not participate in the mandatory media interviews at Roland Garros 2021.

"Following this announcement, the Roland Garros teams asked her to reconsider her position and tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue and what might be done to address it on site.

"Following the lack of engagement by Naomi Osaka, the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open jointly wrote to her to check on her well-being and offer support, underline their commitment to all athletes' well-being and suggest dialogue on the issues. She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players.

"Naomi Osaka today chose not to honour her contractual media obligations. The Roland Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the code of conduct."

The statement went on to say: "We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further code of conduct infringement consequences.

"As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future grand slam suspensions.

"We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement.

"As a sport there is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honour their commitments."

The statement was co-signed by organisers from all four grand slams.

Naomi Osaka kicked off her bid for a maiden French Open title with a battling straight-sets win over Patricia Maria Tig on day one at Roland Garros.

The second seed, who has failed to get beyond the third round in four previous attempts, won 89 per cent of her first serve points on her way to seeing off Tig 6-4 7-6 (7-4) in a time of one hour and 48 minutes.

She had 39 winners to 35 unforced errors and will now take on Ana Bogdan – a 6-1 6-3 winner against Elisabetta Cocciaretto on Sunday – for a place in the last 32.

Osaka, who announced before the tournament that she would not be doing post-match media duties, had just one clay-court victory to her name heading into the second grand slam of the year, but she soon found her groove against world number 63 Tig.

However, after earning an early break of serve, the Australian Open champion squandered three set points in the eighth game as Tig hit back.

Osaka made her superiority show in the following game to take a 1-0 lead in the match and held throughout a tight second set, which went the distance.

Tig, who reached the third round in Paris last year, initially held her own but Osaka pulled away to take the tie-break 7-4 on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Data Slam: Osaka seeking more major glory

World number two Osaka has now won her last 15 matches at grand slams and, even accounting for her record on clay, she will take some stopping in Paris. 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Osaka – 39/35
Tig – 19/21

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Osaka – 1/3
Tig – 4/5

BREAK POINTS WON
Osaka – 2/10
Tig – 1/2

Barbora Krejcikova clinched a first Tour-level singles title of her career as she dispatched Sorana Cirstea 6-3 6-3 in the final of the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

World number 38 Krejcikova lost to Garbine Muguruza in the Dubai Tennis Championships final in March but suffered no such disappointment this time around, overcoming her Romanian opponent in one hour and 41 minutes.

Cirstea was in fine form this week following her Istanbul success, but the world number 61 was on the back foot from the off after losing her first two service games, offering up six break points in the process as Krejcikova reeled off four games in a row.

Krejcikova squandered two set points as Cirstea broke back, but the Czech took the lead at the third time of asking.

Cirstea rallied straight away in the second set, yet problems on her own serve continued as she suffered successive breaks and those errors ultimately handed Krejcikova an advantage she did not relinquish, with the 25-year-old sealing her maiden title with a powerful cross-court forehand.

In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes – a statement largely true until Rafael Nadal emerged on the scene and made the French Open his own.

Since breaking through for his first Roland Garros triumph in 2005, only three other men – Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic – have managed to interrupt Nadal's dominance in Paris.

Nadal has won 13 French Open men's singles titles, seven more than any other player in the Open era (Bjorn Borg, six) heading into this year's edition.

Despite being seeded third, it would take a brave person to bet against defending champion Nadal adding to his mammoth and unprecedented haul in the French capital, where the second grand slam of the year gets underway on Sunday.

On the women's side, defending champion Iga Swiatek is looking to follow in the footsteps of Belgian great Justine Henin.

As all eyes shift to Court Philippe Chatrier and its surroundings, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind this year's slam, using Opta data.

 

The 'King of Clay'

Nadal will open his title defence against Australian Alexei Popyrin. Since 2000, only Nadal (13) and Gustavo Kuerten (two) have won the French Open more than once.

The 34-year-old swept aside world number one Djokovic in straight sets last year for his fourth consecutive French Open crown and 20th slam trophy, equalling Roger Federer's all-time record. Nadal maintained his stranglehold on the major, having not dropped a set throughout the fortnight. Only three players have previously won the French Open without losing a single set: Ilie Nastase in 1973, Bjorn Borg in 1978 and 1980 and Nadal in 2008, 2010, 2017 and 2020.

Nadal is the only player to have won the same slam more than 10 times. He has lost just two of the 102 matches played in Paris (excluding walkovers), losing to Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round and Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals, while has won each of the last 30.

The record for most slam titles on the men's circuit will also be up for grabs, with Nadal and the returning Federer seeking to snap their tie.

In the last 25 years, the number one seed has won the French Open on only five occasions – Nadal (2018, 2014 and 2011), Djokovic (2016) and Kuerten (2001). It does not bode well for top seed and 18-time major champion Djokovic, who is looking to close the gap on foes Nadal and Federer.

Australian Open champion Djokovic, who will face Tennys Sandgren in the first round, has reached the final in seven of the last 10 slams he contested, claiming six titles. However, the Serbian star has only featured in five French Open deciders (W1 L4) – fewer than in any of the other three major tournaments.

 

Declining Federer, Nadal challengers?

The French Open will be a welcome sight for tennis fans as Swiss great Federer, who has not played a slam since the 2020 Australian Open due to his troublesome knee and the coronavirus pandemic, makes his comeback.

Seeded eighth ahead of his opener against Denis Istomin, 2009 French Open champion Federer has only contested nine slam finals over the last 10 years (W4 L5) after reaching that stage in 22 major events in the previous decade (W16 L6). Since the beginning of 2016, the 39-year-old has only taken part in one French Open, in 2019, where he reached the semi-finals.

Daniil Medvedev has been flirting with a breakthrough slam triumph. The second seed is a finalist at the Australian Open (2021) and US Open (2019). Medvedev has reached the semi-finals in two of his most recent three appearances at a grand slam after going further than the fourth round in only one of his previous 13 major tournaments. However, the Russian has lost in the first round in each of his four Roland Garros appearances.

US Open champion and fourth seed Dominic Thiem has played two finals at Roland Garros (2018 and 2019) – more than in any other slam – but lost both of them against Nadal. He has won 80 per cent of his games at the French Open, his best win rate in any of the four majors.

Andrey Rublev is the only player to have taken part in the quarter-finals during each of the past three grand slams, including the 2020 French Open. But the seventh seed – who fired down 53 aces at Roland Garros last year, at least 14 more than any other player – is yet to progress further than that round.

Aslan Karatsev enjoyed a fairy-tale run at Melbourne Park in February, the Russian qualifier making it all the way to the semi-finals. Only one qualifier has reached the semi-final stage at the French Open: Filip Dewulf in 1997.

 

Iga in 14-year first?

Having never progressed beyond the fourth round of a major, Polish teenager Swiatek broke through for her maiden slam title via the French Open last year, upstaging Sofia Kenin.

The 19-year-old Swiatek – who will return as the eighth seed in her defence, starting against Kaja Juvan – could become the first woman to win consecutive titles at Roland Garros since Henin in 2005-2007 (three in a row). Only three players have won multiple titles in the women's tournament at the French Open in the 21st century: Henin (four), Serena Williams (three) and Maria Sharapova (two).

Swiatek could claim the French Open and Rome's Internazionali d'Italia in the same campaign. Only Serena Williams (2002 and 2013), Sharapova (2012), Monica Seles (1990), Steffi Graf (1987) and Chris Evert (1974, 1975 and 1980) have achieved the feat previously.

Swiatek celebrated slam glory in the absence of world number one and defending champion Ash Barty in 2020. No player has won more games on clay this season than Australian top seed Barty and Veronika Kudermetova (both 13).

Only Barty (three) has won more titles than third seed Aryna Sabalenka (two) in 2021 – the Belarusian is one of two players currently ranked in the top 20 in the WTA yet to reach a major quarter-final, alongside Maria Sakkari.

In a field also including four-time slam champion and reigning Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka – the second seed – Sabalenka could become only the third woman to win the Madrid Open and French Open in the same season after Serena Williams in 2013 and Sharapova in 2014.

As for fourth seed Kenin, she could be just the fourth American player to reach back-to-back Roland Garros finals, after Serena Williams (2015-16), Martina Navratilova (1984-1987) and Evert (1973-1975, 1979-80 and 1983-1986).

 

All eyes on Serena

The queen of WTA tennis for so long, Serena Williams is one slam success away from matching Margaret Court's record of 24 major singles championships. But the 39-year-old has been stuck on 23 since reigning supreme at the Australian Open in 2017.

While the French clay is not one of her favourite surfaces, it could be the scene of a remarkable achievement following a lengthy wait.

Roland Garros is where Williams has the lowest winning percentage (84 per cent) and where she won the fewest titles (three, at least half as many as the other slams).

Williams won her maiden French Open in 2002 and could hoist the trophy aloft 19 years after her first success in Paris. The longest span between two majors wins for a single player in the Open era is already held by Williams (15 years between 1999 and 2014 at the US Open).

Irina-Camelia Begu awaits the seventh seed in the first round.

Roland Garros, Wimbledon, the US Open, the Olympic Games, Indian Wells: this year's tennis calendar is not lacking in red-ringed dates.

But August 8 and September 26 are majorly notable in that they will mark the 40th birthdays of Roger Federer and Serena Williams, respectively.

Federer's birthday falls on the final day of the Tokyo Olympics, while Williams reaches the same landmark a fortnight after the US Open women's singles final.

Both have kept their future plans quiet, but it would come as no major surprise if one, or both, were to retire by the end of the year.

Fellow grand slam greats Venus Williams, Andy Murray and Kim Clijsters may also be a matter of months away from bowing out of the professional ranks.

Will life after tennis begin at 40 for Williams and Federer, or could the superstar pair return to the French Open in 2022?

Stats Perform looked at the players who may be considering their futures, what they still want to achieve, and their prospects of attaining those remaining goals.
 

Federer's final fling?

Ahead of his 30th, Federer was asked what it felt like to hit such a milestone.

"Birthdays happen. They're part of life," Federer said. "I'm happy I'm getting older. I'd rather be 30 than 20, to be honest. To me it's a nice time."

A decade on, Federer may be similarly equanimous about hitting 40. Family life is good, he'll never need to borrow a dollar, and he has advanced from 16 grand slams to 20.

But the knees would sooner be 30 than 40, and Federer, remarkable sportsman though he is, is coming to the end of the line in his tennis career. It will hurt the Fedfans to think so, but all the evidence points to it. We are probably witnessing a lap of honour.

Having won Roland Garros only once at his peak, we can surely forget the prospect of any heroics in Paris. Federer needs to win a few rounds though, in order to be sharp and battle-hardened for the grass season. Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open are events where you might give a fit Federer a chance, even at such a veteran age, but he has played only three matches since the 2020 Australian Open, losing two of those.

Target: Federer has never settled for second best, so he will want to be a tournament winner again, no doubt about it. The hunger does not go away after 20 grand slams, but it can be more difficult to sate.

Prospects: Slim, but not forlorn. So much of Federer's game is about feel and ease of movement, and assuming that knee surgery last year means the body is in good shape again, he should be able to call on those staples of his game. Key missing ingredients are the confidence that comes with beating rivals, and match fitness. Federer's 1,243 wins and 103 singles titles count for an awful lot still, and there could be one final hurrah before the Swiss great signs off.


Serena still one short of Court

From precocious teenager to queen of the tour, Williams' tennis journey has been a 25-year odyssey and there is nobody more driven to succeed than the great American.

It must be an intense frustration that she remains rooted on 23 grand slams, one short of Margaret Court's record haul, and the four grand slam final losses she has suffered while on that mark have been cruel blows.

As her 40th birthday approaches, it would not be a surprise if Williams reached that target, but what once felt inevitable now only has the air of being a possibility. She is becoming less of a factor when looking at title favourites, but Williams is still capable of beating top players, still a threat wherever she shows up.

Target: The 24th slam remains the must-have for Williams. Tour titles feel like an irrelevance, and Williams has won just one of those since January 2017, her calendar built around peaking for the majors since returning from giving birth to daughter Olympia.

Prospects: Beating Aryna Sabalenka and Simona Halep at the Australian Open demonstrated Williams still has the game for the big stage, and a semi-final defeat to Naomi Osaka, to whom she has now lost in three of four encounters, should not particularly detract from that. Williams is playing on clay primarily to get in great shape for grass, because Wimbledon, where she plays the surface with a command that others can only envy, is where that elusive 24th slam looks most likely to come.


Amid losing streak, tennis waits to learn what Venus infers

Some suspect that the Williams sisters, having arrived on tour together, might bow out at the same time too. Venus has won 49 WTA Tour-level titles but has recently slipped out of the top 100 for the first time since early 2012. Ahead of turning 41 in June, it is hard to see her being a reliable force again.

The seven-time slam winner will be needing wildcards for the grand slams unless the wins start to flow, and naturally she should have no trouble getting those backdoor tournament entries, but for a player of her stature, losing in the first round most weeks can offer little satisfaction.

It is 21 years since Venus' greatest tennis summer, when she won the Wimbledon, Stanford, San Diego, New Haven, US Open and Olympics singles titles, along with doubles glory alongside Serena at the Olympics and Wimbledon.

Nevertheless, she said at the Australian Open in February: "I'm trying to get better every day. I think that no matter what happens to you in life, you always hold your head up high, you give a hundred million percent. That's what I do every single day. That's something that I can be proud of."

Target: Venus last won a singles slam in 2008, so forget that. A run to the second week of a slam is not entirely unimaginable, or she could stun a big name early on. Venus will want to wring every last drop from her career, but you suspect more than that, she would love to be there to watch her little sister win that 24th slam.

Prospects: Since a second-round exit to Elina Svitolina at the 2019 US Open, Venus has won only four matches at WTA level, and she is presently on a run of five consecutive defeats, which began with a 6-1 6-0 trouncing by Sara Errani at the last-64 stage of the Australian Open. Her last Wimbledon appearance resulted in a first-round loss to the then 15-year-old Coco Gauff two years ago, so even hopes of a resurgence at the event she has won five times appear somewhat remote.


We wish you a Murray summer

Once a grand slam nearly man, Murray banished that reputation with his US Open triumph and twin Wimbledon titles, not to mention the two Olympic gold medals, the Davis Cup victory, and the 14 Masters 1000 tournaments he won along the way, a big-time champion on every surface.

What a career, and it deserves a fitting ending. Murray is battling one injury after another and will miss the French Open, hoping his tired frame holds up to see him through Queen's Club, Wimbledon, the Olympic hat-trick bid and the US Open.

Target: He would probably say another slam is possible, if he can get healthy and stay that way. The 'if' there is doing an awful lot of heavy lifting though.

Prospects: Should Murray manage to stay injury-free, then it will be enthralling to see what he can achieve. However, since an unexpected title in Antwerp in October 2019, he has won just four matches on the ATP Tour and one in the Davis Cup. The resurfaced hip, the troublesome groin, the pains of being Andy Murray aged 34 are proving wearing on the Scot. If he is fit enough to feature at Wimbledon, it would be a joy to see him play even just one more great singles match on Centre Court. Admirers must hope Murray follows the pattern of his career by exceeding expectations, which are logically low.


Kim wildcard wonder?

If you missed the Clijsters comeback, it is hardly surprising, given she returned to the WTA tour after a near eight-year absence just weeks before the pandemic shut down tennis, and she has barely been seen since. The three-time US Open winner was dealt bum draws in her comeback year but gave Garbine Muguruza, Johanna Konta and Ekaterina Alexandrova enough to think about in the course of three first-round defeats.

Since losing behind closed doors in three sets to Alexandrova at the US Open, Clijsters has undergone knee surgery and had COVID-19, and she does not plan to play again until after Wimbledon.

Target: If Clijsters, who turns 38 in June, can build up form and fitness, then some kinder draws would be a fitting reward for persistence. She could have quietly called time on this comeback, but the former world number one is a fighter, and it would be fitting, perhaps, if her career were to end with a night session match in front of a packed Arthur Ashe Court at Flushing Meadows. The Belgian's intentions are not entirely clear, but that prospect must have crossed her mind.

Prospects: The New York wildcard would be assured if Clijsters can show she is in any sort of form, given her US Open history. Clijsters' immediate potential is entirely unclear, but she had the highest game-winning percentage (66.7 per cent) of any woman in World Team Tennis last year, and Jessica Pegula, Sofia Kenin and Jennifer Brady were all part of that competition. Bring that game to a major and we're talking.

Sorana Cirstea and Barbora Krejcikova will do battle in the Internationaux de Strasbourg final after overcoming tough tests in their respective semi-finals.

Handed a quarter-final walkover due to the withdrawal of top seed Bianca Andreescu due to injury earlier in the week, Cirstea fell behind to Poland's Magda Linette on Friday, but hit back to win 3-6 6-4 6-2.

Cirstea, world number 61, is in the hunt for her second title of the season after her success in Istanbul last month – a trophy that ended a barren run of over 12 years for the Romanian.

The 31-year-old will face stern competition from fifth seed Krejcikova, however.

Krejcikova is in the hunt for her maiden Tour-level triumph, after falling short at the final hurdle in Dubai in March.

She too needed three sets to claim a place in the final, with world number 216 Jule Niemeier pushing Krejcikova all the way.

However, the Czech – ranked at 38th in the world by the WTA – rallied after losing the first set 7-5.

Having clinically taken the three break points on offer to her in set two, Krejcikova broke for a final time to make it 4-3 in the decider – a lead she would not relinquish as she prevailed 5-7 6-3 6-4.

The WTA says Naomi Osaka has a "responsibility" to her sport to speak to the media after the world number two opted to snub the press at the French Open.

Japanese sensation Osaka this week stated she would not face the media at Roland Garros as "people have no regard for athletes' mental health" during press conferences.

The WTA on Friday stated that it would welcome dialogue with Osaka over possible approaches to support players, but the organisation says the four-time grand slam winner should speak to journalists.

"Mental health is of the utmost importance to the WTA and for that matter, every individual person. We have a team of professionals and a support system in place that look after our athletes' mental and emotional health and well-being," a WTA statement said.

"The WTA welcomes a dialogue with Naomi (and all players) to discuss possible approaches that can help support an athlete as they manage any concerns related to mental health, while also allowing us to deliver upon our responsibilities to the fans and public. 

"Professional athletes have a responsibility to their sport and their fans to speak to the media surrounding their competition, allowing them the opportunity to share their perspective and tell their story."

Osaka said she wants fines she will be hit with for her media snub in Paris to go to a mental health charity.

She explained in a social media post on Wednesday: "I'm writing this to say I'm not going to do any press during Roland Garros.

"I've often felt that people have no regard for athletes' mental health, and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one."

 May 26, 2021

Osaka added: "We're often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before, and I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me."

World number one Ash Barty told the media when asked about Osaka's stance on Friday: "We know what we sign up for as professional tennis players. I can't really comment on what Naomi is feeling or her decisions she makes.

"At times press conference are hard of course but it's also not something that bothers me. Certainly doesn't keep me up at night what I say and hear or what you guys ask me."

Defending champion Iga Swiatek said: "I don't find it difficult. It gives us a chance to explain our perspective, so I think it's good."

Gilles Moretton, the president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), said Osaka is making a "phenomenal mistake".

He told L'Equipe: "It's a deep regret, for you journalists, for her [Osaka] personally and for tennis in general. I think this is a phenomenal mistake."

Moretton added that Osaka ignoring the media is a "very detrimental to sport, tennis and probably to her."

Unseeded duo Sorana Cirstea and Jule Niemeier marched into the semi-finals of the Internationaux de Strasbourg on Thursday.

Romanian Cirstea emphatically beat eighth seed Zhang Shuai 6-2 6-1 and moved into the last four after Bianca Andreescu withdrew following her second-round success over Maryna Zanevska due to an abdominal injury.

Cirstea lost only seven of the 31 points on her first serve and did not face a solitary break point in an impressive victory ahead of the French Open.

She broke Zhang on four occasions and will do battle with Magda Linette for a place in the final.

Linette took out fourth seed Yulia Putintseva 6-3 6-3, breaking once in the first set and three times in the second.

Qualifier Niemeier upset seventh seed Shelby Rogers, completing a 6-4 7-6 (8-6) victory following a rain delay. 

The German will look to pull off another surprise when she faces Barbora Krejcikova, who eliminated Ekaterina Alexandrova with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 victory.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic could meet at the semi-final stage of the French Open, while Iga Swiatek and Ash Barty are in the same half of the draw.

Nadal will start his quest to win the Paris grand slam a staggering 14th time with a first-round encounter against Australian Alexei Popyrin next week.

Defending champion Nadal, the third seed, is in the same half of the draw as fellow all-time greats Djokovic and Federer, who could face the Serbian world number one in the last eight.

Top seed Djokovic, who is two major titles shy of the record of 20 held by Federer and Nadal, will take on Tennys Sandgren in the first round.

Swiss great Federer will come up against a qualifier in round one at Roland Garros, while two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem is up against Pablo Andujar.

Pole Swiatek claimed her maiden grand slam title at the French Open last year and takes on her close friend Kaja Juvan in the first round.

World number one Barty, who did not travel to Paris to defend her title in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, has will make her return at the clay-court major against Bernarda Pera.

Serena Williams comes up against Irina-Camelia Begu, while last year's runner-up Sofia Kenin must do battle with the 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko in a standout first-round match.

Carla Suarez Navarro can expect plenty of support when she takes on Sloane Stephens in her first tournament since successfully completing cancer treatment.

Naomi Osaka has imposed a media ban during her upcoming French Open campaign, citing mental health reasons.

Osaka – the reigning Australian Open champion and four-time grand slam winner – announced the shock media boycott ahead of the Roland Garros event, which will get underway on Sunday.

Under French Open rules, typical of any tennis tournament, players are required to hold media conferences after each match.

Osaka is the world's highest earning female athlete and will be fined by tournament officials should the world number two follow through and not take part in news conferences.

Japanese star Osaka hopes the fines she will receive can be donated towards mental health charity.

"I'm writing this to say that I'm not going to do any press during Roland Garros," Osaka wrote on Twitter. "I've often felt that people have no regard for athletes' mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.

"We're often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I am not going to subject myself to people who doubt me.

"I've watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well. I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they're down and I don't understand the reasoning behind it.

"Me not doing press is nothing personal to the tournament … However, if the organisations think that they can just keep saying, 'do press or you're gonna be fined', and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are centrepiece of their co-operation then I just gotta laugh."

Osaka heads to Paris having never progressed beyond the third round of the French Open.

The 23-year-old skipped last year's French Open amid the coronavirus pandemic, though she claimed her second US Open crown at Flushing Meadows.

Third seed Ekaterina Alexandrova beat Clara Burel – and the persistent rain - to reach the quarter-finals of the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

Alexandrova is the highest-ranked player remaining in the tournament after top seed Bianca Andreescu withdrew on Tuesday with an abdominal injury.

The world number 33 converted six of her 10 break points to see off Burel 6-3 6-4 in an hour and 10 minutes as she reached her fourth quarter-final of the season, two of those on clay.

Barbora Krejcikova awaits Alexandrova in the last eight after battling back from a set down to beat Caroline Garcia 3-6 6-2 6-1.

Previous Strasbourg champion Garcia held serve throughout the opening set to open up a convincing lead, but Krejcikova did likewise in the second and third sets to advance through.

Number four seed Yulia Putintseva is also into the quarter-finals after Jil Teichmann retired injured when two games down in the opening set.

Arantxa Rus had a walkover win of her own, with French wildcard Harmony Tan a set down when having to withdraw through injury.

Wednesday's other matches also came to an early end because of rain. 

Jule Niemeier leads Shelby Rogers 6-4 2-1 ahead of the resumption of that match on Thursday, which is also when Zhang Shuai and Sorana Cirstea will begin their second-round contest – the winner of which will go through to the semis following Andreescu's withdrawal

Bianca Andreescu was in good form again as she saw off Maryna Zanevska to reach the last eight at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

Until this week the Canadian had been absent from the WTA Tour since making the final in Miami back in March, missing recent events after a positive COVID-19 test.

But she has now won two straight matches on clay for the first time in her career, having barely played on the surface at tour level before.

Top seed Andreescu was playing an opponent ranked outside of the world's top 250 for a second straight day, though she emphatically did the job against qualifier Zanevska, winning 6-1 6-4 in just 65 minutes.

Aside from needing to recover from 4-2 down in the second set, Andreescu had few problems and converted all five of the break points she forced in the contest.

However, the second seed at the WTA 250 event is out.

Australian Open quarter-finalist Jessica Pegula was upset by Arantxa Rus, losing 6-4 6-4.

Pegula won only 10 of her 31 points on second serve as she was broken on five occasions.

But there was relief for seventh seed Shelby Rogers, who won an epic contest lasting three hours and 23 minutes against fellow American Christina McHale.

Rogers won 7-5 6-7 (6-8) 7-5 in a memorable clash. The eventual winner was a point away from wrapping up the victory in straight sets before later needing to save a match point herself in the decider.

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