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“I feel for Osaka, but it’s always been part of sport as well” – Andy Murray and tennis world’s reaction to Osaka’s tears

Murray says he has often wondered why behaviour that is not acceptable in other work environments is allowed in sports following the Osaka heckling incident at Indian Wells on Sunday

Naomi Osaka wipes her face as she talks to referee Claire Wood after a spectator disrupted play, yelling "Naomi you suck," before the start of her 2nd round match against Veronika Kudermetova at the BNP Paribas open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Naomi Osaka wipes her face as she talks to referee Claire Wood after a spectator disrupted play, yelling “Naomi you suck,” before the start of her 2nd round match against Veronika Kudermetova at the BNP Paribas open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Image Credit: AI / Reuters / Panoramic

WTA BNP Paribas Open Indian Wells 2022 | Results | Schedule

Four-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray said he feels for Naomi Osaka following the 24-year-old’s breakdown on court after she was heckled at the start of her second round match against Veronika Kudermetova at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Saturday.

A fan in the stands heckled Osaka with a comment, “Naomi, you suck!!” as her second round match started which resulted in the Japanese player breaking down in tears during the first few games of the first set. The former world No 1, who publicly spoke about her struggles with mental health issues last year, asked the referee if she could address the crowd but was declined and went on to lose the first set 6-0.

Osaka remembered the Williams sisters at Indian Wells

While Osaka recovered her composure and form in the second set, Kudermetova proved too strong and completed the 6-0, 6-4 win to oust the 2018 Indian Wells champion. Osaka broke down in tears once again after she asked to address the crowd before walking off the court, saying that the heckling brought back flashes of the heckles hurled at the Williams sisters at Indian Wells in the early stages of their career and stayed in her head. That incdient led to the Williams sisters boycotting the Indian Wells event for several years thereafter.

Murray, always one to speak his mind about things he believes in, said he felt for his peer. “Obviously I feel for Naomi, that obviously it upset her a lot but yeah, it’s always been something that’s been part of sport, I guess, as well. So 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.”

Andy Murray (GBR) during a second round match at the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Andy Murray at Indian Wells in 2022 © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Murray’s comparisons with other sports

The 34-year-old, who was beaten by 31st seed Alexander Bublik in Indian Wells on Sunday, went on to talk about how he has witnessed similar and more intensive heckling in other sports and often wonders why it is tolerated in sports when the same would not be tolerated in other work environments.

“I’ve often thought like watching certain sports, I wouldn’t say I’ve often seen it loads in tennis. I know it’s happened. But I don’t think it’s that common in tennis. But like if I watch like 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 like, you know, how’s that allowed? Like, you can’t do that. If you’re doing that to someone when you’re walking down the street or in any other sort of work environment, that’s obviously not tolerated.”

“Have to kind of be used to that as well or be able to deal with that too”

Andy Murray

“I’ve obviously played in certain atmospheres as well myself in tennis, like Davis Cup atmospheres, away from home, especially where the atmosphere’s intense, and sometimes things are said, and it’s not that comfortable. And, obviously the people that come to watch, obviously you want them to be there and supporting the players and obviously not making it more difficult for them. I don’t know, but there’s also, it’s also something that’s always just kind of been part of sports as well.”

“If you go and watch a basketball match, for example, and a player’s taking free throws, I would say like almost every basketball match I’ve been to one of the players has been heckled by the crowd as well, and whilst it is wrong for those individuals to be doing it, the athletes obviously, I guess, have to kind of be used to that as well or be able to deal with that too, even though it’s not pleasant.”

Tough to be in a job that requires to be under the spotlight when you feel so sensitive and vulnerable

Patrick Mouratoglou

Murray was not the only one who spoke about the Osaka incident. Patrick Mouratoglou, the coach of 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, said he felt for the young Japanese player, who also broke down after she beat Williams in a dramatic US Open final in 2018 when the crowd booed Williams for her on-court behaviour.

Former world No 3 and current tennis analyst Pam Shriver said she hoped that the latest episode would not lead to another break from the game for Osaka, who missed several events in 2021, after her decision to boycott media conferences at the French Open snowballed into a major controversy.

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