Naomi Osaka fought back tears as she was affected by a heckler in her loss to Veronika Kudermetova at Indian Wells
Naomi Osaka fought back tears after exiting Indian Wells in the second round as she said a heckler in the crowd affected her.
A spectator in the crowd yelled “Naomi, you suck,” after the four-time Grand Slam winner lost the first game in her second round match against Veronika Kudermetova. Kudermetova went on to win the match 6-0, 6-4.
The 24-year-old asked the umpire be given the microphone to address the crowd, but her request was rejected. She also spoke to a tournament supervisor after the first set.
Osaka was visibly upset as she explained how she was affected by the insult on Stadium 1. The 2018 Indian Wells champion said it reminded her of racially charged insults directed at Serena and Venus Williams at the same tournament in 2001.
“I just wanted to say thank you. I feel like I’ve cried enough on camera,” said Osaka, whose father is Black and mother is Japanese.
“To be honest, I’ve gotten heckled before. It didn’t really bother me, but it’s like, heckled here.
“I’ve watched a video of Venus and Serena getting heckled here and if you’ve never watched it, you should watch it. And I don’t know why, but it went into my head and it got replayed a lot.
“I’m trying not to cry. I just want to say thank you and congratulations [to Kudermetova]. Just thank you.”
In 2001 Venus and Serena Williams and their father, Richard, were jeered after Venus pulled out of the sisters’ scheduled semi-final meeting at the last minute due to a knee injury.
Serena was then booed when she took to the court for the final against Kim Clijsters. Venus and Richard were taunted when they took to their seats to watch the match.
Serena did not return to play in the tournament until 2015 while Venus came back in 2016.
“It was a really tough match for me against Naomi,” Kudermetova said afterwards.
“She is a great player, she’s a good fighter, and I’m really happy about my performance today. I was so focused and I’m so happy to be here and play in front of you guys.”