Pandora's Box: Roland Garros' Misstep In Allowing Sabalenka To Skip Press Conferences

Pandora's Box: Roland Garros' Misstep In Allowing Sabalenka To Skip Press Conferences

by Sebastian Dahlman

This year's Roland Garros has proven to be a controversial one with several storylines making the rounds around the globe.

From Djokovic's political message about Kosovo to players complaining about frequent booing for all sorts of reasons, to the French Tennis Federation allowing Sabalenka to 'skip' media availability and we haven't even mentioned the scheduling yet.

Yes, there have been a lot of things going on this year but one thing in particular could have consequences for years to come. It's the press conferences because the French Tennis Federation did something they weren't willing to do two years ago. They allowed a player to cherry-pick what kind of press they will talk to after the win.

It's not the exact same thing that happened with Naomi Osaka but it's certainly very similar. She wasn't allowed to skip any press conferences but Aryna Sabalenka was kind of allowed to do that. She first asked for a closed press conference with a selected few reporters instead of the open one where anyone with accreditation could come in and ask a question.

Then she completely skipped over the reporters talking only with a WTA reporter who forwarded the quotes to the rest of the press. It's a move that has created controversy but a fellow player and WTA council member Jessica Pegula sees no problem with it.

Now that's the problem that could come back to haunt tennis events in the future. A lot of tennis players showed empathy towards Osaka two years ago but a majority of them underlined media as part of the job.

This move by the FFT could see it become an 'optional' part of the job. What's stopping more players from opting to skip media to preserve their mental health in the future? If you allow one player to do it, then you have to allow it for all otherwise it's favouritism.

How do you ensure that that loophole doesn't get abused? The short answer is you don't. When you have a prominent WTA council voice (Pegula) already explaining it's a 'player's right' to decline media then you have arrived at a place where a future power play by the players could see media become optional.

And that's the pandora's box problem the FFT created. Nobody knows what will happen in the future but even if players continue to do press, they might cherry-pick the journalists they want to talk to.

Those that won't ask the 'hard' questions and that's the trouble. If that happens, you might as well cancel the whole process altogether because journalists will be reduced to glorified PR agents.


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