Naomi Osaka was left in tears on Saturday after a fan heckled her from the stands during the first set of her BNP Paribas Open showdown against Veronika Kudermetova.
Kudermetova would ultimately prevail on the day, after Osaka was unable to fully regain her composure and go on to lose 6-0, 6-4.
What stole the show, however, was Osaka’s dealings with the heckler.
After the first game of the match, a fan in the stands yelled out: “Naomi, you suck.” Osaka immediately shut down and walked over to the chair umpire to request the fan be removed. The request was rejected. A little while later, Osaka requested to use umpire’s microphone to address the crowd. That ask was rejected as well.
After the match ended, Osaka demanded to address the crowd – something that is obviously very atypical for the loser of the proceedings. At that point, she attempted to explain in great detail what had transpired.
“To be honest, I’ve gotten heckled before, it didn’t really bother me,” Osaka said, struggling to maintain her composure.
“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. I don’t know why, but it went into my head, and it got replayed a lot. I’m trying not to cry.”
Osaka has been on a rough run as of late. Since winning her last major title at the Australian Open in 2021, she has mostly just been in the news for removing herself from the French Open before her second-round match, not participating in Wimbledon and then announcing she would be taking an extended leave from tennis after a third-round ouster at the US Open in September.
Upon her eventual return, Osaka was defeated in the third round of the Australian Open by Amanda Anisimova – dropping her to No. 85.
At her best, Osaka is extremely talented. But there are clear mental issues at work here. And those issues aren’t just weighing her down, they’re bad for the sport in general. Her forays in political issues have been linked by some to tennis’ ratings decline.
Yikes. Horrific. https://t.co/kR6Yev06NN
— Game 7 (@game7__) March 12, 2022
It will be interesting to see where things go from here. If Osaka can ultimately get it together, regain some semblance of who she once was and move forward – all her woes will be forgotten.
Should that not happen, though – then Osaka will likely go down as one of the most disappointing tennis stars of her generation.