Heckler brings Naomi Osaka to tears in match in Indian Wells

A woman in the crowd at the BNP Paribas Open yelled, “Naomi, you suck!” at Naomi Osaka following the first game of her match Saturday evening. The comment brought the four-time Grand Slam champion to tears on center court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Fans around the woman yelled to have the woman removed, Tennis Channel commentators said, but the umpire said that the woman could not be identified and the match resumed.

At a break in play, following the second game, the Japanese tennis star asked the umpire for a microphone to address the crowd.

“Can I borrow your microphone?” Osaka asked the chair umpire.

“What do you want to say?” the umpire responded.

“I just want to say something,” Osaka replied. “I’m not going to curse. I don’t curse. It’s just weighing on my heart.”

The umpire spoke to his supervisor, who ultimately declined the request, telling Osaka that a player taking the microphone mid-match is unprecedented. Most of the conversation was inaudible but video replay of the conversation clearly picks up the supervisor saying, “If it happens again, we’re going to find him.”

Naomi Osaka of Japan hits a shot to Veronika Kudermetova of Russia during round two of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, Calif., Saturday, March 12, 2022.

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The comment shook Osaka, who quickly fell behind two breaks and lost the first set 6-0 to Veronika Kudermetova of Russia. Osaka, who was born in Japan but raised in the United States, fought back in the second set before falling to Kudermetova, 6-0, 6-4.

After the match, Osaka asked to speak to the crowd, which typically does not happen when a player loses a match.

“To be be honest, I’ve been heckled before,” Osaka said, choking up. “It didn’t really bother me. But heckled here, like, I’ve watched a video of Venus and Serena (Williams) get heckled here, and if you’ve never watched it, you should watch it. I don’t know why, but it went into my head and got replayed a lot.”

Naomi Osaka of Japan addresses the crowd about being heckled during her match against Veronika Kudermetova of Russia during round two of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, Calif., Saturday, March 12, 2022.

Osaka, 24, was referencing an ugly, albeit brief, part of the history at the Indian Wells tournament, when fans booed Serena Williams as she won the tournament in 2001. The two sisters were set to play each other in the semifinals that year, but Venus withdrew with an injury just before the match, which upset some fans who did not believe the injury was legitimate.

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