Indian Wells 2022: Naomi Osaka reduced to tears after being jeered by spectator

The four-time Grand Slam winner lost to Russia's Kudermetova in the second round of Indian Wells Masters on Sunday.

Naomi Osaka in action (Twitter: @WTA)

Four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka was reduced to tears after being jeered by a spectator in her second round defeat in straight sets 0-6, 4-6 to Veronika Kudermetova of Russia who is playing under a neutral banner at the Indian Wells Masters. The match on Sunday saw a spectator reportedly shouting: ‘Naomi, you s****,’ which led to the Japan-ace complaining to the chair umpire as she visibly broke down while serving at the start of third game. Osaka looked clearly affected by the jeers as she lost the first set without even pocketing a game. 

However, even after the loss, Osaka decided to stay on the court and appear for the post-match interview. She mentioned that the jeers reminded her of a video which saw The Williams sisters — Venus and Serena — receiving abuse at the same venue in 2001.

The Williams sisters have boycotted the Indian Wells Masters — regarded as the biggest event after the major championships — for the last 14 years after being subjected to racial abuse around 21 years ago. 

READ MORE: Andy Murray reunites with coach Ivan Lendl for the first time since 2017 

Naomi Osaka: It got into my head and it got replayed a lot

“I just wanted to say thank you, I feel like I cry enough on camera,” Osaka said.

“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.”

The Indian Wells Masters was the first-time Osaka was featured at a tournament after Australian Open 2022 in January where she was knocked out in the third round. She had withdrawn from the French Open and then missed Wimbledon last year due to mental health issues.

She returned to the US Open in 2021 but took a break after her early loss. “When I win I don’t feel happy.”
Her counterpart Kudermetova, playing under a neutral banner due to her country’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, said: “Naomi was reminded of something that happened with Serena here a few years ago. She started to cry because it is similar to what’s happened with Serena. But it doesn’t matter. I know she’s strong, a great person. I think it will be good with her.”

Sportslumo Desk

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