Naomi Osaka has released a poignant message in the aftermath of an ugly incident that saw her break down in tears on the court.
Naomi Osaka has sent a poignant message after breaking down in tears at Indian Wells because of a rude heckle from a spectator.
The four-time grand slam champion lost in the second round to Veronika Kudermetova and stopped play during the second game of the first set to approach the chair umpire, asking them to do something about a person who was shouting at her.
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The spectator reportedly shouted out “Naomi, you suck”, after which the tennis star became emotional and shed tears.
Taking to Twitter on Friday morning, Osaka wrote: “Very proud of myself for reaching a point in my life that despite the lows, I would still rather be myself than anyone else.”
After her match against Kudermetova ended, Osaka addressed the crowd on court and explained the heckling brought back memories of an infamous incident at Indian Wells in 2001 when Serena Williams was booed during a match.
The ugly episode involved accusations of racism and allegations Williams’ father Richard fixed the results of matches between Serena and sister Venus.
The two sisters subsequently boycotted Indian Wells for 14 years until Serena returned to the event in 2015.
“To be honest, I’ve gotten heckled before, it didn’t really bother me. But (being) heckled here, I watched a video of Venus and Serena (Williams) getting heckled here, and if you’ve never watched it, you should watch it,” Osaka told the crowd.
“I don’t know why, but it went into my head, and it got replayed a lot. I’m trying not to cry. But I just wanted to say thank you and congratulations.”
Fellow stars Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal both sympathised with Osaka but acknowledged getting heckled can be part of top-level sport.
“The easy answer for me is I feel terrible about what happened, that never should happen,” Nadal said earlier this week. “Even if is terrible to hear from that, we need to be prepared for that, no?
“At the same time, as we like a lot when the people are supporting, when something like this happens, we need to accept and move forward, no?
“We need to resist these kind of issues that can happen when you are exposed to the people, no?
“I understand that probably Naomi, suffered a lot with these, probably kind of issues that she has, mental (health) issues. The only thing that I wish her is recover well from that and wish her all the very best.
“But the life, nothing is perfect in this life, no? We need to be ready for adversities.”
Murray echoed a similar sentiment.
“I’ve played in certain atmospheres as well myself in tennis, like Davis Cup atmospheres, away from home, especially where the atmosphere’s intense, and sometimes things are said and it’s not that comfortable,” Murray said.
‘The people that come to watch, obviously you want them to be there and supporting the players and not making it more difficult for them. I don’t know, but it’s also something that’s always just kind of been part of sport as well.
“If you go and watch a basketball match, for example, and a player’s taking free throws, I would say like almost every basketball match I’ve been to one of the players has been heckled by the crowd as well. And whilst it is wrong for those individuals to be doing it, the athletes have to kind of be used to that as well or be able to deal with that too, even though it’s not pleasant.
“So, I feel for Naomi, that obviously it upset her a lot, but it’s always been something that’s been part of sport as well. So you have to be prepared for that in some ways and be able to tolerate it because it does happen regularly across all sports.”