Tennis Champ Naomi Osaka Brought to Tears After Heckler Shouts 'You Suck' During Indian Wells Match

© REUTERS / MIKE SEGARTokyo 2020 Olympics - Tennis - Women's Singles - Round 3 - Ariake Tennis Park - Tokyo, Japan - July 27, 2021. Naomi Osaka of Japan reacts during her third round match against Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Tennis - Women's Singles - Round 3 - Ariake Tennis Park - Tokyo, Japan - July 27, 2021. Naomi Osaka of Japan reacts during her third round match against Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.03.2022
Naomi Osaka lost 6-0, 6-4 to Veronika Kudermetova in Indian Wells, but that wasn’t the worst part of the match for the young tennis star. Osaka was reduced to tears as a particularly rude spectator yelled, “Naomi, you suck”.
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, 24, has been ranked No. 1 by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), and is a four-time Grand Slam champ. But despite her accolades and various accomplishments, the star appeared to be not up to her usual form on Sunday.
Osaka lost two rounds to Russian tennis player Veronika Kudermetova during her match at the BNP Paribas Open tournament in Indian Wells. The tennis tournament in Southern California is regarded as the “fifth Grand Slam” where players compete for portions of the prize money pool, this year its total stands at a whopping $17,168,110.
But before Osaka could bounce back from her first loss during the match, she was reduced to tears by a woman in the stands who was heard shouting, “Naomi you suck” as an umpire attempted to silence her. Osaka then addressed the umpire, in what appeared to be a request for some accountability to be taken against the heckler.
Osaka can then be heard asking the chair umpire if she can use her microphone, resulting in a conversation between the chair umpire, the supervisor and Osaka. It would have been unusual for Osaka to address the crowd in the middle of the match, but the star was clearly upset. She was seen weeping and wiping tears from her eyes as she attempted to continue.
In an unprecedented move for Osaka, who said she would no longer do post-match interviews - as she believes it negatively affects her mental health - she waited for Kudermetova to finish her interview so she could address the crowd and explain what caused her to break down.
“I just wanted to say thank you,” said Osaka to a cheering crowd. “I feel like I’ve cried enough on camera, but I just wanted to say… to be honest I’ve gotten heckled before and it didn’t really bother me. But getting heckled here… Like I’ve watched a video of Venus and Serena getting heckled here, and if you’ve never watched it you should watch it.”
Osaka is referring to tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, who were heckled by fans at a tournament in Indian Wells in 2001. Venus was scheduled to play against her sister in the semifinal but withdrew due to a knee injury.
When Serena squared up against Belgian tennis player Kim Clijsters in the 2001 final, some in the crowd began booing and heckling Serena. Both Serena and her father, Richard Williams, stated they had heard racial slurs as well. In the 2001 video, the sports commentator can be heard saying: “I don’t like this atmosphere at all. I do think it smacks of a certain amount of racism by a certain portion of the crowd, and that is very distasteful.”
Serena, who was 19 at the time, beat Clijsters in the final despite the crowd’s alleged racial abuse. Serena afterward boycotted the Indian Wells Masters, refusing to play at the event for 15 years.
“What was most surprising about this uproar was the fact that tennis fans are typically a well-mannered bunch. They’re respectful. They sit still. And in Palm Springs, especially, they tended to be pretty well-heeled, too,” said Serena in 2009.
“But I looked up and all I could see was a sea of rich people—mostly older, mostly white—standing and booing lustily, like some kind of genteel lynch mob.”
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