Naomi Osaka was brought to tears by a heckler during her 6-0, 6-4 loss to Veronika Kudermetova at Indian Wells on Saturday.
Osaka, who has slipped to 78 in the world, was rattled early in the first set when someone in the crowd yelled “Naomi, you suck.”
She pleaded with the chair umpire to take action to no avail, and at 0-3 down in the second-round match, her emotions spilled over.
Osaka pulled herself together and resumed the match, but Kudermetova, the 21st seed, raced through the opening set before Osaka managed to hold serve to open the second.
Although she lifted her game, Osaka couldn’t capitalize on any of her four break points in the contest.
A break of serve in the seventh game of the second set was enough for Kudermetova to capture victory.
Speaking on court after the match she said it wasn’t the comment that was upset her, but it reminded her of Venus and Serena Williams being heckled at Indian Wells in 2001.
“To be honest I feel like I’ve been heckled before it didn’t really bother me,” she said.
“But, like, I’ve watched a video of Venus and Serena being heckled here. If you’ve never watched it you should watch it.
“I don’t know why, but it went into my head and it got replayed a lot.”
Last year, Osaka had drawn attention to the top of athletes’ mental health after withdrawing from French Open.
“I’m trying not to cry,” she said, her voice breaking.”I just have to say thank you and congratulations,” she added with a nod to Kudermetova. “Thank you.”
Andy Murray sympathizes
Andy Murray sympathized with Osaka but said it was unfortunately part of the game.
“It’s a difficult one,” Murray told reporters after his second-round loss.
“I’ve often thought watching certain sports, I wouldn’t say I’ve often seen it loads in tennis … but if I watch a football or a soccer match and a player’s going to take throw-in or a corner kick and the crowd are just hurling insults at those individuals.
“I always think, how is that allowed? Like, you can’t do that.
“Obviously I feel for Naomi, that it upset her a lot but yeah, it’s always been something that’s been part of sport, I guess, as well.
“So, you know, you have to, I guess, be prepared for that in some ways and be able to tolerate it because it does happen regularly across all sports.”