'This is shameful': Outrage over 'disgusting' Naomi Osaka incident

·Sports Editor
·5-min read
Naomi Osaka, pictured here being reduced to tears in disturbing scenes at Indian Wells.
Naomi Osaka was reduced to tears in disturbing scenes at Indian Wells. Image: Getty

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.

Naomi Osaka, pictured here addressing the crowd after her loss at Indian Wells.
Naomi Osaka addresses the crowd after her loss at Indian Wells. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

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.

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.”

with agencies

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