Sports, Tennis

Osaka reduced to tears at Indian wells


By AFP
Published : 13 Mar 2022 07:56 PM

Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka was reduced to tears by a heckler Saturday on the way to a 6-0, 6-4 second-round loss to Veronika Kudermetova at Indian Wells.

Japan's Osaka, ranked 78th in the world after her third-round exit at the Australian Open, was rocked early in the first set when someone in the crowd yelled "Naomi, you suck."

She was unable to convince the chair umpire to take action and at 0-3 down her emotions spilled over.

Osaka quickly pulled herself together and resumed the match, but even though she raised her game in the second set she could find no answer for Kudermetova, a finalist this year in the Melbourne Summer Set and in Dubai.

Osaka put athlete mental health in the spotlight in a difficult 2021 in which she revealed she had suffered depression.

But speaking on court after the match she said it wasn't that she found the comment so hurtful that she was upset, but because it reminded her of Venus and Serena Williams being heckled at Indian Wells in 2001.

"To be honest I feel like I've been heckled before it didn't really bother me," she said. 

"But, like, I've watched a video of Venus and Serena being heckled here.

"If you've never watched it you should watch it," she added, tearing up again before she congratulated Kudermetova on the win and departed the court.

Kudermetova, who had been looking forward to her first career meeting with Osaka, said she didn't know what the spectator said, she just knew her opponent was upset.

"I didn't hear what the lady say because I really was so focused on my game, on my serve game, I didn't understand what she say.

"But after that moment, I saw that Naomi, she start to cry. I don't understand what's happen."