Naomi Osaka Melbourne Summer Set 2022

‘Disturbing and heart-breaking’ – Chris Evert feels Naomi Osaka needs ‘thicker skin’ to deal with heckling

A compassionate Chris Evert believes “bright light” Naomi Osaka needs to develop “a thick skin” to be able to deal with hecklers and thinks the situation will be “a learning process both in life and on-court.”

Four-time Grand Slam ace Osaka was nearly reduced to tears after a heckler shouted ‘Naomi, you suck’ in her Indian Wells Masters defeat to Veronika Kudermetova.

This comes after Osaka missed both the French Open and Wimbledon last season, citing depression and anxiety as the main reasons for her absence.

The situation sparked conversations regarding the engrained nature of heckling in sports and how athletes deal with such harassment.

Both 21-time Grand Slam legend Rafael Nadal and three-time Slam icon Andy Murray extended their sympathy, but both feel heckling is part of sport and is something professional athletes have to find ways to deal with.

Similarly, speaking to Eurosport 18-time Slam great Chris Evert said “I would never use the word ‘overreacted’ with Naomi; she’s a sensitive human being.

“I think Naomi is learning now or will learn, that when you’re competing in front of thousands of people and you’re that exposed on the court, there may be one or two hecklers out there, that you have to learn to tune out.

“Unfortunately, you have to have a thick skin. But you can have a thick skin while you’re competing and then you can still be sensitive off the court with your feelings.

“But you have to learn that balance, that combination because hecklers have been there for a long time and I think every top player has had that experience, which is disturbing and heart-breaking,” Evert claimed.

“But at the same time, you don’t want to let one moment like that affect you … especially somebody like Naomi, who has been such a bright light for not only tennis players but all athletes, all people when it comes to mental wellness.

“She has been such a role model for so many people.

“To let one person who may have had too much to drink or isn’t happy with their life … I think she will hopefully learn that this is part of the price that you pay if you’re famous, successful and playing and exposed to thousands of people.

“I think this is a process for her. This is a learning process for her in life and on the tennis court. I think all of us who know her support her in her journey and hope that she finds the balance again to be tough on the court and then sensitive off of it because that’s the real her,” she concluded.

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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.