Naomi Osaka has had a poor start to the new season, after a disappointing title defence in the Australian Open 2022 exiting in the third round, she then went crashing out of the Indian Wells Open 2022 in the second round.
It became worse for her as in the Indian Wells Open, as the former champion Naomi Osaka was heckled by the crowd during her match that saw the Japanese superstar break down in tears amidst the match. Playing against Veronika Kudermetova, Naomi lost the match 0-6, 4-6 but despite the good tennis played by the players, the heckling incident overshadowed the sport.
Christ Evert shares views on Naomi Osaka’s heckling incident
Eurosport expert Chris Evert recently gave her views on hecklers in tennis and Osaka being a “bright light” in the sport after her experience at Indian Wells. A spectator shouted “Naomi, you suck” at the Japanese star at the event in the California desert, with the four-time Grand Slam champion visibly upset during her straight-sets defeat against Veronika Kudermetova.
Andy Murray had said that players must learn to “tolerate” heckling despite questioning why spectators attend events simply to direct abuse at players, while Rafael Nadal said he felt “terrible” for Osaka but acknowledged that such experiences with fans “happens” in the sport.
While Evert, like Murray and Nadal, believes that players “have to learn to tune out” heckling from the stands, she believes that Osaka is a “bright light” when it comes to mental wellness and is “a role model for so many people” with her bravery and openness.
“I would never use the word ‘overreacted’ with Naomi; she is a sensitive human being. I think Naomi is learning now or will learn, that when you are competing in front of thousands of people and you are that exposed on the court, there may be one or two hecklers out there, that you have to learn to tune out,” said Evert to Eurosport.
The American also said that sportspersons nowadays have to have a thick skin due to such incidents, even if they are sensitive off the court. It ultimately comes down to the balance between sensitivity and thick skin.
“Unfortunately, you have to have thick skin. But you can have a thick skin while you’re competing and then you can still be sensitive off the court with your feelings, but you have to learn that balance, that combination because hecklers have been there for a long time and I think every top player has had that experience, which is disturbing and heartbreaking,” added Evert.
She then hailed the Japanese and players like her a bright light for the generation due to their stance on mental health and wellness.“She has taught us a lot and she has really exposed that area of health that is very, very important. She has been, you know, such a role model for so many people,” said the American.