Tennis star Naomi Osaka is addressing the challenge of being a woman in sports.
The 24-year-old talked about the double standards for men and women in the athletic world on the Victoria’s Secret VS Voices Podcast last week.
During the podcast, Osaka recalled her 2018 US Open women’s singles final match against Serena Williams, during which the latter engaged in a verbal altercation with chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
Williams was given three separate on-court violations and later suggested that the umpire’s actions were motivated by sexism.
“Definitely if a male player did that, it wouldn’t have been so broadcasted,” Osaka told host Amanda de Cadenet when asked about the repercussions for Williams and subsequent backlash to her response. “There’s actually been male players that have done far worse, like literally last year and this year, and they don’t get news reports at all.”
“So I’m not sure if it’s because Serena is Serena, or if people just wanted to write negative things. I definitely felt like I can’t say that if we were both male players the outcome would have been the same way.”
Continuing, she added, “But I do know that people are very interested in Serena and whatever she does is going to get news attention. And it was just unfortunate that it had to be that moment that caught a lot of people’s interest.”
Her remarks follow her going public with her mental health struggles this year to a show of support from other athletes, many of whom have since been candid about the toll that the pressure of being a professional athlete takes.
Osaka withdrew from the French Open in May, citing anxiety surrounding media interviews. The next month, she then withdrew from Wimbledon to take “personal time” before competing at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Earlier this year, in the September cover story of Women’s Health, she said because “we live in a world where people are so quick to speak and to comment,” her “silence is almost uncomfortable” to some people.
“I hope I was able to help some people and for them to see that even athletes are still humans like the rest of us. And we all are dealing with something in our lives,” Osaka said.
“Growing up being labeled ‘the quiet one’ puts you in a box and, even worse, makes you stand out when all you want is to blend in. But now I try to embrace and own it.”