Andy Murray Indian Wells 2021

Andy Murray ‘feels for’ Naomi Osaka but says she ‘must be prepared for heckling’

Andy Murray extended Naomi Osaka his sympathy after being heckled and shared his bemusement at how heckling is engrained in sporting culture, but believes she and other athletes need to “be able to tolerate it.”

In her second round Indian Wells defeat to Veronika Kudermetova, four-time Grand Slam victor Naomi Osaka was almost reduced to tears after a disgruntled spectator shouted “Naomi, you suck!”

Similarities have been drawn to the heckling that traumatised 23-time Slam great Serena Williams and resulted in her boycotting the prestigious event for a total of 14 years.

Speaking in a post-match press conference, three-time Slam champion Murray said “it’s a difficult one. I’ve often thought [when] 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 if I watch a football match and a player’s going to take a throw-in or a corner kick and the crowd are just hurling insults at those individuals, I always think ‘how’s that allowed? 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,” the Brit claimed.

Speaking about his own experiences, he said “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.

“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 it’s also something that’s always just kind of been part of sports as well.”

Murray also recognised that heckling is rampant in all sports worldwide and needs to be accepted.

He said “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 have to be used to that as well or be able to deal with that too, even though it’s not pleasant.

“So, obviously I feel for Naomi, that obviously it upset her a lot, but it’s always been something that’s been part of sport as well.

“So you have to be prepared for that in some ways and be able to tolerate it because it does happen regularly across all sports,” the Scot ended.

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.