Tennis star Naomi fast running out of aces

WOULD it be churlish to suggest that Naomi Osaka, the new prima donna of the tennis world, takes a vow of silence for a week or two?

Is it showing lack of empathy or understanding to recommend she has a long and deep session of introspection and self-examination; to think hard  before venting any more of her thoughts and tantrums on a world already burdened with plenty of somewhat more serious issues than her relationship with the media?

We will accept that she, along with thousands of others, has “mental issues” (the popular catchphrase) to deal with.

Also that they have been with her since winning the US Open in 2018, an achievement which one would have thought brought her joy rather than gloom.

Not plunge her into the old Slough of Despond  which has been snaring the unwary since John Bunyan defined it some four hundred years ago.

And she is still trying to escape this fictional mire three years later.

In the intervening (and Covid fractured) period she has become World No.2, achieved global fame and amassed a fortune of the like never to be experienced by all the far lesser lights, sloggers and minnows over whom she towers.

The world’s richest sports star, according to those who compute such seemingly essential data.

But she is depressed. Okay. Money doesn’t bring happiness. Fame is a hard taskmaster that has cowed many a show pony.

These are lessons bruited about loud and clear down the years; they are there to be learned by those will observe and listen.

So many fallen stars as shining examples, so many bright lights that have crashed and burnt.

And they exist in a world well apart from the one down here at street level where depression is a well-documented crisis brought not by fame and fortune but by the daily grind of eking out a living and having nowhere, or no one, to turn to.

A world light years away from the false, fragile and dizzying heights inhabited by Ms Osaka and her ilk.

To play the mental health card and rant and rage as she is doing on a daily basis bears no relationship to the minimum wage worker living in near-slum conditions in the back streets of Oldham, unable to pay their rent, adequately feed themselves and their family or meet the bills for heating and light.

That’s depression, Ms Osaka.

And so is being a student who has worked diligently throughout their school years only to be stranded and in deep debt with hopes of a university education and an all-important degree obliterated in the stroke of a lockdown.

These are the causes of bad mental health, Ms Osaka. Lives and careers trampled on and destroyed; futures of despair. Not having to face a few journalists who are being critical of your serve or backhand.

It is understood not only by tennis players but by top sportspeople worldwide that one of the few binding obligations they have is to make themselves available to the press, win or lose, at the end of their games.

Some do it with a laugh and a joke; some get more serious and technical; others grumpy and bitter. But they do it. A few minutes out of their pampered lives where they can generally call the shots. Job done.

Regardless however much she pleads her cause, seeking sympathy for her plight, it is not as if Ms Osaka is unused to dealing with the media. Au contraire, she is a skilled manipulator as evidenced in her performances (for that is what they are) over the years.

And a quick browse through her Instagram posts provides further proof. She is a skilled user of social media and all that that entails. Clearly a lover of the limelight. A veritable show pony. Look at me, look at me. And give me your sponsorship.

Such a seasoned practitioner must surely know that with exposure comes a tidal wave of responses. From all directions. The good, the bad and the downright ugly.

You have entered the lion’s den; the beasts need feeding and how you manage them and escape unscathed  is totally in your hands.

And when they growl and roar and scratch and bite . . . well, you knew the risks and the consequences.

Thus many struggle to feel much sympathy for the hurt claimed to your apparently fragile mind and body; which also is hard to believe in view of your all-conquering way to the top.

Thousands of far more deserving cases are ahead of you in the barrage of calls for mental health care and treatment.

Maybe the answer lies within rather  than in this stream of “Poor me” whinging and whining.

Go and whack a few balls, hit some aces; or maybe head to the vaults and count your millions.

Otherwise expect to hear the umpire yell “Fault” loud and long.






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