Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka was brought to tears by a fan at the the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, on Saturday night and addressed the crowd after a 6-0, 6-4 loss to Veronika Kudermetova.
“To be honest, I’ve gotten heckled before. It didn’t really bother me, but it’s like, heckled here,” Osaka said after the match. “I’ve watched a video of Venus and Serena getting heckled here, and if you’ve never watched it, you should watch it. And I don’t know why, but it went into my head and it got replayed a lot.”
Osaka, 24, fell behind right away Saturday when her serve was broken in the first game of the match. Just as the second game was set to start a fan in the crowd could be heard yelling, “Naomi, you suck!”
Play was stopped as Osaka asked for the fan to be removed and later asked for the umpire microphone to personally address the crowd. Both of requests were denied, and play was allowed to continue, but Osaka was told the fan would be removed if more shouts happened.
In 2001, the Williams sisters were heckled at Indian Wells after Venus pulled out of a semifinal match against Serena due to a knee injury, allowing the latter to move on to the final. The crowd’s treatment of Venus, Serena and their father, Richard, at the final led to both sisters boycotting the tournament for more than a decade.
Osaka climbed to No. 1 in the world rankings in 2019, but went on hiatus in 2021 by pulling out of the French Open and sitting out Wimbledon. Earlier this year, she was upset in the third round of the Australian Open by 60th-ranked Amanda Anisimova.