Naomi Osaka was reduced to tears by a heckling spectator at Indian Wells on Saturday in shocking scenes that many have labelled "disgusting" and "shameful".
The Japanese star was rattled early in the first set when someone in the crowd repeatedly yelled "Naomi, you suck."
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After falling 0-3 down her emotions spilled over and Osaka was reduced to tears as she sat courtside.
Osaka then approached the chair umpire and asked if she could address the fan over the microphone, but her request was denied.
The 24-year-old quickly pulled herself together and resumed the match, and even though she raised her game in the second set she could find no answer for Veronika Kudermetova and bowed out 6-0 6-4.
Speaking on court after the match, Osaka said it wasn't that she found the comment so hurtful but because she was reminded of how Venus and Serena Williams were targeted at Indian Wells in 2001.
After Venus withdrew from her scheduled semi-final against Serena with a knee injury, the crowd booed Venus and father Richard when they took their seats to watch the final.
Fans jeered Serena as the match went on, while Richard said he was the target of racial slurs.
The Williams sisters famously boycotted Indian Wells for 14 years after the incident, only returning to the California tournament in recent years.
"To be honest I feel like I've been heckled before it didn't really bother me," she said.
"But, like, I've watched a video of Venus and Serena being heckled here.
"If you've never watched it you should watch it," she added, tearing up again before congratulating Kudermetova.
Kudermetova said she didn't know what the spectator said on Saturday but knew her opponent was upset.
"I didn't hear what the lady say because I really was so focused on my game, on my serve game, I didn't understand what she say," the Russian player said.
"But after that moment, I saw that Naomi, she start to cry. I don't understand what's happen."
Fans and commentators took to social media to condemn the 'disgusting' scenes.
Some douchebag screamed out "Naomi, you suck" during Osaka's match happening right now. She's shook, lost the first set 6-0 to someone she should be dismantling.
I really hate how some of us treat people these days. #BNPPO22 #BNPParibasOpen
— Marlon A. Walker (@marlonawalker) March 13, 2022
What’s wrong with people?!
Naomi Osaka is NOT too sensitive, she’s human & that was disgusting!
That person needs to be band from sporting events until they learn better.
Imagine being heckled while you’re trying to do your job by some random who doesn’t have half your talent. https://t.co/arXM7Yl8gg
— Elaye-Mags A (@ElayeMagsAbidde) March 13, 2022
Naomi Osaka being heckled most of her match yesterday is honestly so disgusting. A lot of people keep saying she needs thick skin and to be strong, but nobody should have to accept being insulted time after time. Her struggle with mental health is real and I just hope she’s okay.
— Rox and Roll. 🌸 (@skysthelxmit) March 13, 2022
Disgusting Indian Wells spectators being cruel to @naomiosaka. The same horrible people who did similar to the Williams sisters, who boycotted that venue for 14 years. All players of colour should never play there again.
— Trevor 🇧🇧 (@TrevorSCL) March 13, 2022
Naomi Osaka crying doesn't she's too sensitive, doesn't mean she needs to see a shrik and doesn't mean any of the other shit I'm seeing people say. It means she's a human being with feelings!! The person who shouted that at her should be banned for life!! 😤 #IndianWells #BNPPO22
— Siobhan 🇬🇬 (@slinehan1) March 13, 2022
— Willow Grove Mental Health Consultants (@WGCMentalHealth) March 13, 2022
@atptour should stop playing tennis at @BNPPARIBASOPEN . Disgusting behavior all the way around! When will #IndianWells ever move beyond the racism & hate ? Disgraceful!!! I stand with @serenawilliams @Venuseswilliams & @naomiosaka
— 🇺🇦 JJ 🇺🇦 (@JJBlood_) March 13, 2022
At the Indian Wells, Naomi Osaka was brought to tears by a heckler during her match against Veronika Kudermetova.
Someone in the crowd yelling "Naomi, you suck".
This is disappointing and shameful for the game. #NaomiOsaka #BNPPO22 #BNPParibasOpen #IndianWells pic.twitter.com/piYfa6njNb
— FUM (@Edirined) March 13, 2022
Naomi Osaka's brave battle with mental health
Osaka put athlete mental health in the spotlight in a difficult 2021 in which she revealed she had suffered depression.
The 24-year-old said she struggled with depression after winning the US Open in 2018 in a controversial final against Serena Williams.
She withdrew from last year's French Open after the first to protect her mental health before opting to skip Wimbledon.
Osaka won her opening-round match against Sloane Stephens in her return to the desert at Indian Wells, where she won the title in 2018.
She hadn't played a tournament since January when she lost in the round of 32 at the Australian Open.
Only having played a handful of events last year, her ranking has dropped to 78th in the world.
“I know she’s the strong, the great person,” Kudermetova said. “I think it will be good with her.”
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