INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — While BNP Paribas Open officials said Monday they’ve closed the book on a booing incident Saturday night that brought Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka to tears, some of the sport’s other big stars are continuing the discussion on post-party press conferences.
The tournament said security was unable to locate and therefore did not remove the individual who yelled, “Naomi, you suck!” during a moment of silence while Osaka was on the court with Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova. The incident occurred in the second game of the first set, and Osaka, who was visibly shaken, lost the match, 6-0, 6-4.
Still, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Gael Monfils and Daniil Medvedev are among the players who addressed the boos that brought Osaka to tears.
Although the boos came from a single individual, with Osaka having overwhelming support from the crowd, talk of the incident has not stopped, particularly since at least one other spectator was removed from the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for comments directed at other players. during upcoming matches this week.
During American Reilly Opelka’s match against Canadian Denis Shapovalov inside Stadium 2 on Monday, the match was stopped and security approached a man who was yelling at Opelka. The man was not removed.
In the following set, play was momentarily stopped once again after more shouting at the players. Opelka and Shapovalov called for one individual to be removed. Security walked up and escorted a different man, who was wearing a black shirt.
“Obviously most people are great,” Shapovalov said. “Only certain individuals sometimes. It’s hard. All you can ask is to be escorted out. If they do it by accident, no problem. If they’re doing something continuously or deliberately, I think it’s not respectful to the players.”
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Osaka, 24, has been open about her struggles with mental health. She wrote an essay for Time titled “That’It is good not to be good” She withdrew from Roland Garros last spring in an effort to preserve her sanity, after she was fined $15,000 for skipping the news conference after her first-round win.
Osaka then explained that she experienced anxiety before speaking to the media in Paris, revealing that she has suffered bouts of depression since she rose to fame by winning the 2018 BNP Paribas Open followed by four Grand Slams.
The BNP Paribas Open has signage around Stadium 1 to remind spectators of proper etiquette during matches. Sheets of paper with a reminder of that etiquette were posted on counters in at least some of the suites on Sunday and Monday.
Tennis icon Martina Navratilova, an analyst for Tennis Channel, addressed the situation on air and advocated for tournaments to weed out fans who are disruptive and disrespectful.
“I would get rid of these fans,” Navratilova said. “I would point them out and get rid of them. But as a player, you kind of have to deal with that or not play forever or for now. Just take care of yourself first.”
Navratilova also said that unfortunately it’s part of the sport and players can’t take that kind of behavior personally.
“I would just call them out,” the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion said. “Next time you’re interrupted, say ‘Hey, say it to my face and let’s talk.’ It may be after the game, but I want to see you after the game. They’re going to shut up, they most likely won’t stand up and say it was me. So you just need to own it and be positive and go on the offensive in that situation and not take it personally, mostly.”
Players who have been asked about the situation in Indian Wells have had a similar response.
“If you go to a basketball game, for example,” Murray said, “and a player shoots free throws, I would say almost every basketball game I’ve been to, one of the players has also been heckled by the crowd. . . While it’s wrong for those people to do it, athletes obviously also have to be used to it or be able to deal with it too, even if it’s not nice.
“So obviously I feel sorry for Naomi,” Murray said. “That obviously bothered her a lot, but yeah, it’s always been something that’s also been a part of the sport. So I guess you have to be prepared for that in some way and be able to tolerate it because it happens regularly in all sports.”
Nadal, although sympathetic to the situation, was more direct in his statements.
“I mean, the easy answer for me is that I feel really bad about what happened,” the Spanish tennis star said. “That should never happen. At the same time, since we really like that people are supporting us, when something like this happens, we have to accept it and move on, right?
“I understand that Naomi probably suffered a lot with the problems she has, mental problems,” Nadal said. “The only thing I wish her is that she recovers well from that and I wish her all the best. But life, nothing is perfect in this life, right? We have to be prepared for adversity.”
Andrew John covers sports for The Desert Sun and USA Today Network. Email him at [email protected] and find him on Twitter at @Andrew_L_John.
This article originally appeared in Palm Springs Desert Sun: Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray on Naomi Osaka booing in Indian Wells