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Naomi Osaka breaks down, steps away from pre-tournament press conference

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Naomi Osaka returned to speaking with the media on Monday, but not without a few hiccups.

Ahead of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Osaka spoke with reporters in a pre-tournament video news conference. Everything was initially going smoothly, until a local reporter asked Osaka “a fairly aggressively toned question” about how she benefits from having a “high-media profile” but doesn’t doesn’t enjoy talking to the media.

Osaka answered the question despite the conference moderator trying to move on to the next, but then began to cry a few questions later.

In a response, Osaka’s agent Stuart Duaguid called the reporter — Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer — a “bully” in a statement to Ben Rothenberg, a freelance writer from the New York Times.

“The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now,” he said. “Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior.

“And any insinuation that Naomi owes her off court success to the media is a myth – don’t be so self-indulgent.”

Rothenberg, who first reported the incident, conceded on Twitter that while the tone Daugherty used was not necessarily aggressive, it stood out amongst those that preceded it.

“Relative to the markedly gentler tone that preceded it from everyone trying to make Naomi comfortable in her first time stepping back into a press conference in months,” he wrote, adding that people shouldn’t blame this on “tennis media.”

“[The question] stood out as more pointed, and jarred her a fair bit.”

Osaka is set to begin play in the second round of the tournament, where she could play Coco Gauff for the first time since the 2020 Australian Open.