Sports World

Naomi Osaka gets emotional after being heckled during Indian Wells defeat

Former world number one Naomi Osaka was brought to tears by a heckler during her 6-0 6-4 defeat by Veronika Kudermetova at Indian Wells.

The four-time Grand Slam winner was taunted in the first set by someone in the crowd yelling “Naomi, you suck”.

Osaka was playing her third event since taking a break in September.

Speaking on court after the match, an emotional Osaka said it reminded her of Venus and Serena Williams being heckled at the same tournament in 2001.

While holding back tears, Japan’s Osaka said: “I’ve been heckled before and it didn’t really bother me.

“But being heckled here. I’ve watched video of Venus and Serena get 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 got replayed a lot.”

Osaka’s second-round exit is the earliest she has been knocked out of a tournament since returning from an indefinite break that began last year after her US Open title defence ended in the third round.

That break was her second of the year, after she withdrew from the French Open amid controversy over her wish not to speak to the media after matches, and revealed she has struggled with her mental health since first becoming a Grand Slam champion in 2018.

The 24-year-old also missed Wimbledon before returning to the sport later in the summer at the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the flame at the opening ceremony.