Naomi Osaka’s tennis match at the BNP Paribas Open over the weekend took an emotional turn…
The athlete was playing against Veronika Kudermetova at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden outside of Palm Springs on Saturday when a woman from the crowd suddenly screamed:
“Naomi, you suck!”
The comment instantly affected Naomi, who has been open about her struggles with mental health, as she looked completely shaken in the middle of the court. She was quick to defend herself, requesting to have the person removed from the stands. However, the chair umpire Paula Vieira Souza responded that it would be hard to identify who it was that made the rude comment. Still, the tennis pro wasn’t giving up! During a break in the play after the second game, she asked the umpire if she could use the mic to address the crowd, saying:
“Can I borrow your microphone? … I just want to say something. I’m not going to curse. I don’t curse. It’s just weighing on my heart.”
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A tearful Naomi then spoke with WTA Tour supervisor Claire Wood, who could be overheard telling her:
“If it happens again, we’re going to find him.”
However, her request to speak to the crowd was denied, and the game continued. According to The Desert Sun, tournament officials told Naomi that they would find and remove the heckler if she interrupted the competition again. It was too late by that point, as Veronika ended up taking the game with a 6-0, 6-4 win.
Following the match, Naomi was allowed to address the comment made earlier in the day – which rarely happens as players don’t usually speak after losing. Referencing when tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams experienced similar heckling at the same tournament, the Grand Slam Champion said with tears in her eyes:
“I feel like I’ve cried enough on camera. To be honest, I’ve gotten heckled before. It didn’t really bother me. But heckled here, I’ve watched a video of Venus and Serena getting heckled here, and if you’ve never watched it, you should watch it. I don’t know why, it went into my head and it got replayed a lot. I’m trying not to cry. I just wanted to say thank you and congratulations.”
As you may recall, the incident went down in 2001 when the sisters were supposed to go head-to-head in the semifinals that year, but Venus ended up withdrawing due to a knee injury before the match. Fans were upset at the time, thinking the injury was fake, and their father, Richards Williams, fixed the games when his daughter competed against each other. Serena, who was only 19 years old at the time, was ultimately met with criticism and boos from the crowd. It was so bad that she did not participate at Indian Wells for more than a decade.
As we mentioned before, Naomi has been open about her mental health challenges – which previously influenced her decision to withdraw from the French Open last year:
“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players, and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.”
This is just yet another example of how everyone should be conscious about what they say to other people. You never know how your words will affect someone.
Sending our love to Naomi.
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