Following Naomi Osaka’s decision to withdraw from the French Open, a resurfaced clip of Venus Williams’ father cutting off a reporter during an interview has gone viral.
Osaka was on Sunday fined $15,000 after she did not conduct a post-match press conference at the French Open. The tennis star, who had initially signaled her intention to avoid the press during the French Open because of mental health reasons, subsequently announced her withdrawal from the competition on Monday.
“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,” she wrote on Twitter. “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 trivialize mental health or use the term lightly.”
The 23-year-old further disclosed that she has had bouts of depression since the 2018 US Open, adding that she gets “huge waves of anxiety” before she speaks to the media.
A host of current and former athletes as well as other celebrities sent support and words of encouragement to Osaka following her withdrawal from the French Open. Concerns have since been raised about the impact interviews can have on the mental health of athletes. Amid those concerns, a clip of a young Venus Williams being asked why she is so confident has resurfaced on Twitter and has so far had over five million views.
Recorded in 1995 for ABC News’ Day One, the interview took place with correspondent John McKenzie moments after Williams had turned professional in October 1994 at the age of 14.
In the video, McKenzie asks Williams if she can beat her next opponent. This is what ensued.
McKenzie: Did you think you could beat her?
Williams: I know I can beat her.
McKenzie: You know you can beat her? Very confident.
Williams: I’m very confident.
McKenzie: You say it so easily. Why?
Williams: Because I believe it.
At this point, Williams’ father, Richard Williams, cuts off the interviewer. “What she said […] she said it with so much confidence the first time, but you keep going on and on.”
McKenzie then tells Richard he can’t be interrupting. Richard replies, asking McKenzie not to ask the same question again. “You’ve got to understand that you’re dealing with an image of a 14-year-old child. And this child gonna be out there playing when your old a** and me gonna be in the grave,” he says.
“When she say something, we done told you what’s happening. You’re dealing with a little Black kid, and let her be a kid,” Richard says. “She done answered it with a lot of confidence. Leave that alone!”
Williams has since become a tennis champion. She has won seven Grand Slam singles tournaments, 14 Grand Slam doubles tournaments and four Olympic Gold medals.
Recently asked for her thoughts on Osaka’s withdrawal, Williams said: “For me, personally, how I deal with it was that I know every single person asking me a question can’t play as well as I can and never will,” she told reporters Tuesday following her straight-sets loss to Ekaterina Alexandrova in the first round of the French Open.
“So no matter what you say or what you write, you’ll never light a candle to me.
“That’s how I deal with it. But each person deals with it differently.”