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By Tennis Now | Saturday March 12, 2022

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka fell to Veronika Kudermetova in straight sets on a bizarre night at Indian Wells.

Photo Source: Getty

Naomi Osaka made her first breakthrough at the BNP Paribas Open in 2018. Four years later, she entertained hopes of re-announcing herself as an elite force in the women’s game, but was rattled early by a heckler and never really found her best tennis as she fell to Veronika Kudermetova, 6-0, 6-4.

Tennis Express

Osaka has suffered from mental health issues in recent times, but has done her best to rediscover her love for the sport in 2022. Her stated goal this season is to have fun and try hard – but her mission was derailed on Saturday evening when a heckler shouted “Naomi, you suck!” after the first game of her match.

Distressed by the outburst, Osaka spoke with WTA supervisor Clare Wood, after the third game, and then again after the first set, as her emotions got the best of her.

She would continue with the match, which went sideways for her in the opening set as Kudermetova flawlessly pounced on every opportunity.

In the second set Osaka played well, but could not match the No.21 seed, who broke serve for 4-3 and held serve the rest of the way to notch a satisfying victory.

After the match Osaka asked to speak to the crowd and broke down in tears as she addressed them.

“To be honest, I’ve gotten heckled before, and it didn’t really bother me,” she said. “But heckled here? I watched a video of Venus and Serena getting heckled here, and if you’ve never watched it, you should watch it.”

Osaka was referring to the now infamous incident at Indian Wells in 2001, in which Venus Williams forfeited a semifinal to her sister, which led to Serena and her father and coach Richard being booed and subjected to racial taunts during the final, as she defeated Kim Clijsters for the title.

It was an ugly moment that led to a 14-year boycott by the sisters. Serena returned to the tournament in 2015; Venus returned in 2016.

Tonight's situation was vastly different from the aforementioned. Osaka is beloved at Indian Wells and receives tons of support from its fans. It was just one random heckler that decided to spoil the party.

Kudermetova, who will play Marie Bouzkova in the third round, expressed support for Osaka, and confidence that she would be fine.

“I know she's the strong, the great person. I think it's will be good with her,” she said.

Osaka did not give a press conference after the match.


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