Naomi Osaka reduced to tears from heckler as she complained to umpire mid-match
Naomi Osaka was reduced to tears during her defeat at the Indian Wells Masters on Saturday.
The Japanese star was given a wildcard to play in the California desert after her ranking plummeted to No 78 following a curtailed 2021 season.
After coming from a set down to defeat Sloane Stephens in a tough first round match, the 24-year-old found it extremely difficult to continue her momentum at Indian Wells.
She was visibly distressed throughout her second-round defeat to world No 24 Veronika Kudermetova on Saturday, losing 6-0 6-4, after some verbal abuse from the crowd.
During the opening set, the four-time Grand Slam winner – who missed parts of the 2021 season over her mental health – was heckled by a member of the crowd who reportedly shouted "Naomi, you suck", which caused her to complain to the umpire.
Perturbed by the comment, Osaka, who couldn't hide her emotions, lost the first set without winning a game.
Osaka immediately approached the chair umpire asking for actions to be taken but the umpire explained she didn't know who the heckling was coming from so couldn't do anything about it.
Then Osaka asked if she could address the crowd using the umpire's microphone, but the official – who sought advice from the court supervisor, denied the request. She said giving the microphone to a player during a contest was unprecedented.
But the WTA Tour supervisor Claire Wood told the umpire 'if it happens again, we're going to find them'.
The former world No 1 showed more resistance in the second set, but succumbed 6-4 and was dumped out of the tournament.
Given how she was feeling, it surprised many when Osaka decided to do an on-court interview after the match.
Speaking through tears on court, Osaka said: "I just wanted to say thank you, I feel like I cry enough on camera.
"To be honest, I've been heckled before, it doesn't really bother me, but being heckled here, I watched a video of Venus and Serena getting heckled here, if you've never watched it you should watch it and I don't know why, but it got into my head and it got replayed a lot."
Venus and Serena Williams boycotted the event for a number of years after an incident in 2001.
The legendary siblings were due to play each other in the semi-finals of the tournament, when Venus pulled out of the encounter just before it was due to begin, citing a knee injury.
This angered the crowd and on the day of the final, Serena – as well as Venus and their father and coach Richard Williams, were booed throughout.
Richard later claimed he had been racially abused at Indian Wells.
Serena played Kim Clijsters in the final and received boos by most sections of the crowd.
In her 2009 autobiography, 'On the Line', the 23-time Grand Slam champion said: "What got me most of all was that it wasn’t just a scattered bunch of boos. It wasn’t coming from just one section.
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"It was like the whole crowd got together and decided to boo all at once. The ugliness was just raining down on me, hard. I didn’t know what to do.
"There was no mistaking that all of this was meant for me. I heard the word n***** a couple times, and I knew. I couldn’t believe it.
"Just before the start of play, my dad and Venus started walking down the aisle to the players’ box by the side of the court, and everybody turned and started to point and boo at them.
'It was mostly just a chorus of boos, but I could still hear shouts of ’N*****!’ here and there.
"I even heard one angry voice telling us to go back to Compton. It was unbelievable."
As a result, the Williams sisters stayed away from the tournament for a significant period, before Serena returned in 2015, while Venus reappeared the following year.
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