INDIAN WELLS: Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka was reduced to tears by a heckler on Saturday on her way to a 6-0, 6-4 second-round loss to Veronika Kudermetova in Indian Wells.
The Japanese from 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 shouted “Naomi, you suck.”
She failed to convince the chair umpire to act and at 0-3 her emotions boiled over.
Osaka quickly pulled herself together and took over the match, but even though she raised her game in the second set, she found no answer for Kudermetova, a runner-up in this year’s Melbourne Summer Set and Dubai.
Osaka put the mental health of athletes in the spotlight in a difficult 2021 in which she revealed that she had suffered from depression.
But speaking on the pitch after the game, she said it wasn’t because she found the comment so hurtful that she was upset, but because it reminded her of Venus and Serena Williams being heckled in Indian Wells in 2001.
“To be honest, I feel like I was heckled before that didn’t really bother me,” she said. “But, like, I watched a video of Venus and Serena being heckled here.
“If you’ve never watched it, you should watch it,” she added, crying again before congratulating Kudermetova on her win and walking off the pitch.