In the second round of the BNP Paribas Open, the marquee night match between Veronika Kudermetova and Naomi Osaka quickly took a turn when a heckler shouted at Osaka early in the first set, leading the Japanese to begin crying as she tried to gather herself.
The 24-year-old Osaka spoke repeatedly with the chair umpire and a WTA supervisor who was called to the court. The former world No.1 asked for the heckler to be removed and also requested the microphone to make a mid-match announcement to the crowd. The supervisor said she would identify and remove the heckler if it continued and denied the request to address the crowd.
Osaka struggled to get composure and lost the first set 6-0. She spoke with the supervisor and umpire again, but continued to play. She found strength at the start of the second set and played to 3-3, before Kudermetova broke for 4-3. Osaka was able to hold once more, but could not break back, losing the match 6-0 6-4.
Naomi is such a pure soul, all this hate she doesn’t deserve it.
Nd maybe its time to change the therapist coz its not good for you to go back and watch someone who really started all your trauma at first place.
Stay strong @naomiosaka ❤️❤️
— JB (@Brar_JSB) March 13, 2022
After the match, Osaka again requested the microphone. The world No.78 addressed the crowd and explained what she experienced. Osaka recounted that she had been heckled before, but to hear any heckling at Indian Wells brought back memories of the heckling and verbal abuse Venus and Serena Williams experienced in the very same stadium. The incidents that Osaka referred to were the 2001 tournament, when Serena Williams and her family faced racist abuse from the crowd, leading her to boycott the event until 2015.
Osaka did not suggest that the heckling Saturday night was racist in nature, but rather explained that she had seen videos of the racism decades prior in that same space and it triggered an emotional reaction to remember what happened to the Williams family.