Rafael Nadal has expressed his sympathy for Naomi Osaka but has told her she must be prepared to handle hecklers following her break down during last week’s Indian Wells defeat.
Osaka bowed out against Veronika Kudermetova 6-0, 6-4 in the third round on Saturday but that result was the sideshow after she was taunted in the first set by someone in the crowd yelling ‘Naomi, you suck’.
The 24-year-old, who took a break from tennis last year to focus on her mental health, addressed the crowd afterwards to explain exactly why the incident had upset her so much. The loser of a match addressing the crowd post-game is almost unheard of in tennis outside of major finals.
She even asked the umpire if she could use their microphone to address the crowd during the match.
‘I have to speak to my supervisor. What do you want to say?’ the chair umpire responded.
‘I just want to say something,’ Osaka replied. ‘I’m not going to curse. I don’t curse. It’s just weighing on my heart.’
However, the chair umpire – who elected to talk through the emotional situation with the WTA Tour supervisor Claire Wood – denied Osaka’s request to address the crowd. She said giving a microphone to a player during a match was unprecedented.
Rafael Nadal has expressed sympathy to Naomi Osaka but told her to brace herself for hecklers
Osaka was reduced to tears by a heckler during Saturday night’s Indian Wells defeat
During her match, a spectator yelled ‘Naomi, you suck’ which unnerved the 24-year-old
The Japanese star approached the chair umpire to ask that something be done (above)
However, the officials explained that she didn’t know who it was and could not take any action
As a result, Osaka was forced to continue and lost the match 6-0, 6-4 to Veronika Kudermetova
And while Nadal was sad to see Osaka reduced to tears, he did state that ‘in the real world’, abuse from spectators happens.
‘These kinds of questions are tough to answer,’ the 21-time Grand Slam winner said when asked for his opinion about athletes being subjected to negative comments from the crowd.
‘The easy answer for me is ‘I feel terrible about what happened, that never should happen.’
‘Even if is terrible to hear from that, we need to be prepared for that, no?’
‘We need to resist these kind of issues that can happen when you are exposed to the people, no?
‘I understand that probably Naomi, suffered a lot with these, probably kind of issues that she has, mental (health) issues. The only thing that I wish her is recover well from that and wish her all the very best.
‘But the life, nothing is perfect in this life, no? We need to be ready for adversities.’
Nadal said while it was ‘terrible’ he added tennis players ‘need to be ready for adversities’
Nadal’s comments echoes Andy Murray’s sentiments on the situation.
‘It’s a difficult one,’ Murray said, after his defeat in the tournament to Alexander Bublik.
‘I’ve often thought watching certain sports, I wouldn’t say I’ve often seen it loads in tennis – I know it’s happened but I don’t think it’s that common in tennis – but if I watch a football match and a player’s going to take a throw-in or a corner kick and the crowd are just hurling insults at those individuals, I always think like, you know, how’s that allowed? You can’t do that.
‘If you’re doing that to someone when you’re walking down the street or in any other sort of work environment, that’s obviously not tolerated.
‘I’ve played in certain atmospheres as well myself in tennis, like Davis Cup atmospheres, away from home, especially where the atmosphere’s intense, and sometimes things are said and it’s not that comfortable.
Andy Murray said sometimes players are forced to play in situations that are uncomfortable
‘The people that come to watch, obviously you want them to be there and supporting the players and not making it more difficult for them. I don’t know, but it’s also something that’s always just kind of been part of sports as well.
‘If you go and watch a basketball match, for example, and a player’s taking free throws, I would say like almost every basketball match I’ve been to one of the players has been heckled by the crowd as well, and whilst it is wrong for those individuals to be doing it, the athletes have to kind of be used to that as well or be able to deal with that too, even though it’s not pleasant.
‘So, I feel for Naomi, that obviously it upset her a lot, but it’s always been something that’s been part of sport as well. So you have to be prepared for that in some ways and be able to tolerate it because it does happen regularly across all sports.’