August 11, 2022

Venus and Serena Williams were heckled at the same tournament in 2001

Former world number one Naomi Osaka was reduced to tears after she was heckled by a member of the crowd during her defeat to Veronika Kudermetova at Indian Wells.

The 24-year-old suffered a 6-0 6-4 loss to the Russian, and was taunted in the first set by someone in the crowd yelling “Naomi, you suck”.

The four-time Grand Slam winner was playing in her third event since taking a break from the game in September after struggling with her mental health. 

Venus and Serena Williams were heckled at the same tournament in 2001 and boycotted Indian Wells for 14 years following the incident(s).

It came after Venus was subjected to boos after pulling out of a semi-final match against her sister with a knee injury – with the crowd jeering when she and her father took their seats to watch Serena in the final against Kim Clijsters the following day.

Serena ended up winning the match and the title, with Richard claiming that he was the target of racial abuse.

In an interview last year, Serena admitted that she was still traumatised by the incident in 2001.

Speaking after the match, Osaka – who was visibly emotional – said that the incident reminded her of Venus and Serena Williams being heckled in 2001.

She 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.”

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Having exited at the second-round at Indian Wells, it is the earliest that Osaka has been knocked out of a tournament since returning from a break that began in 2021. 

The break from tennis, which was her second of the year, came after she withdrew from the French Open amid controversy over her wish not to speak to the media after matches.

She revealed that she has struggled with her mental health since first becoming a Grand Slam champion in 2018.

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