Tennis players need to build resilience to deal with heckling, says Nadal

Rafael Nadal press conference
FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Rafael Nadal Press Conference – Rafa Nadal Academy, Mallorca, Spain – February 2, 2022 Spain’s Rafael Nadal with the Australian Open trophy during the press conference REUTERS/Enrique Calvo

March 15, 2022

(Reuters) – Australian Open champion Rafa Nadal said Naomi Osaka felt sorry for her after being rocked by a heckler in her second-round loss on Saturday night in Indian Wells, but added that tennis players must be ready to play along to deal with adversity.

Osaka, who sparked conversation about mental health in sport with her withdrawal from the French Open last year, was thrown out of her game and began crying after one person yelled “Naomi, you shit!” early on in their 6-0 , 4:6 defeat against Veronika Kudermetova.

Speaking directly to the otherwise supportive crowd after the match, Osaka said the incident reminded them of the abuse Venus and Serena Williams suffered at the tournament in 2001, leading them to boycott the event for more than a decade.

“In the real world that happens, you know? I feel very sorry for her,” Nadal said after his 7-5, 6-3 win over Daniel Evans on Monday. “We are very fortunate people that we can have amazing experiences… because we are tennis players.

“Even though it’s awful to hear… we have to be prepared for that, right? We have to fight back against these kinds of problems that can happen when you are exposed to humans. Nothing in this life is perfect, is it? We must be prepared for adversity.

“I understand that Naomi has probably suffered a lot from these issues that she has, mental (health) issues. I just wish her a speedy recovery and all the best.”

Daniil Medvedev said he could understand Osaka’s reaction to the heckling after he himself was booed and verbally abused by sections of the shamelessly pro-Nadal crowd during the Australian Open final in January.

“I didn’t feel good in Australia,” said Medvedev after his defeat by Gael Monfils. “I can feel the fans maybe saying what the hell? They (players) get millions. You should be prepared for anything.

“At the same time, we are human. Sometimes we feel bad. Sometimes we feel good. I can understand that Naomi didn’t feel great when she heard it and I totally understand her feelings.”

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore) Tennis players need to build resilience to deal with heckling, says Nadal


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