Naomi Osaka’s game at Indian Wells took a turn for the worse when a heckler made an appearance on Saturday.
“Naomi, you suck!” shouted a woman from the audience during Osaka’s first set against Veronika Kudermetova.
The insult was met with mockery from other spectators and seemed to shake the four-time Grand Slam champion. Osaka trailed 3-0 in the first set when she begged the chair umpire to address the audience.
“Can I borrow your microphone?” asked Osaka. “I just want to say something. I will not swear. I don’t curse. It just weighs on my heart.
Osaka, however, was not allowed to use the microphone. Tournament officials determined they would find and eject the heckler if the match was interrupted a second time. The heckler was kept at bay as Osaka finished the match.
The 24-year-old lost the first set 6-0 to Kudermetova. She would lose the following set 6-4, ending her run to the round of 16 at the California-based tournament.
Having access to a microphone after the game, Osaka responded to the comment.
“I feel like I’ve cried enough on camera,” Osaka told the crowd. “I’ve been bullied before. It really didn’t bother me. But heckled here, I watched a video of Venus and Serena getting heckled here, and if you’ve never watched it, you should watch it. I don’t know why, but it went to my head.
Osaka referenced Serena and Venus Williams’ experience where the sisters faced a backlash from the crowd in Indian Wells in 2001.
Serena Williams said she felt “unwanted, lonely and scared” as she endured criticism and boos from the crowd. She will not participate in Indian Wells for 14 years. She eventually returned in 2015, ending her boycott of the event.
New York Post