Two-time Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka has broken down in tears after receiving a derogatory taunt from the crowd at the Indian Wells Masters in California.
The Japanese world No. 78 failed to recover from the emotional moment, going on to lose her second-round match against Russian Veronika Kudermetova 6-0 6-4.
In the video above: Osaka speaks to crowd after ugly taunt
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The ugly incident unfolded in the first set with an unruly crowd member apparently shouting: “Osaka, you suck.”
Having publicly struggled with anxiety and depression for years, the 24-year-old tennis star was immediately rattled by the comment, approaching the chair umpire to ask that action be taken against the fan.
However, the umpire explained that she wasn’t aware who had made the comment and therefore could not take any steps to evict the person from the stadium in California.
Osaka then made the unusual request to personally address the crowd directly through the umpire’s microphone.
That request was declined before Osaka had a long conversation with a tournament supervisor as she sat crying courtside.
“If it happens again, we’re going to find him,” the supervisor said.
Osaka eventually continued the match against her world No. 24 opponent but never recovered emotionally as she went down in straight sets.
After the match, the former world No.1 spoke to the crowd with tears streaming down her face, as you can see in the video above.
She said the reason the fan upset her was that she had recently seen a video of Serena and Venus Williams being heckled by fans at Indian Wells in 2001.
The sisters boycotted the tournament for years as a result until eventually returning.
“I’ve been heckled before, it didn’t really bother me,” Osaka said.
“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.
“I just want to say thank you and congratulations.”
Osaka has said she struggled with depression after winning the 2018 US Open.
She withdrew from last year’s French Open to tend to her mental health and also took a break from the sport following her upset loss at last year’s US Open.
She said she was in a great place emotionally coming into the tournament.
– with Reuters