Pam Shriver has offered her support to Naomi Osaka after the Japanese was heckled during her second-round match at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Shriver said she sympathized with Osaka for what she was going through, but stressed that professional athletes must find a way to tackle such incidents.
A fan was heard yelling “Naomi, you suck!” after the four-time Slam champion went down an early break to Veronika Kudermetova in the first set of their match on Saturday.
The 24-year-old was clearly affected by the incident and even requested the chair umpire to hand her the mic to address the heckler directly. Osaka went on to lose the set 6-0.
Speaking during an appearance on the Tennis Channel, Shriver pointed out that Osaka "was not the same" after the heckling incident. She advised the Japanese to "put her blinders on" and ignore such fans, who are invariable present at almost every tournament around the world.
"There has been a lot of discussion in the last 24 hours about what happened to Naomi Osaka last night. A heckler from the stands said something that really hurt Osaka and unfortunately, Osaka was not the same after that comment, especially in the first set," said Shriver.
"Whether it's in New York, Melbourne, or around the world, you do get hecklers and you really have to do the best you can and just put the blinders on and ignore them," added the former World No. 3.
Shriver pointed out that fans can be "brutal and mean" and expressed hope that the incident will not impact the Japanese in the long run.
"I think we all have empathy for what Osaka is going through, but if you put yourself out there as a professional athlete in front of people, just ask them to fill it in for your fans, sports fan," mentioned Shriver.
"Fans can be brutal sometimes and they can be mean, but in an individual sport like tennis, it affects players differently, and I just hope that it doesn't set her back to not wanting to play again. I hope she is able to get back and play again and take what she hears from the crowd and ignore it," concluded the 59-year-old.
Andy Murray "feels sorry" for Naomi Osaka, but says heckling is common in sport
Former World No. 1 Andy Murray was also asked to give his thoughts on Naomi Osaka's situation during his press conference at Indian Wells. Murray echoed Shriver's comments, stating that even though he "feels sorry" for Osaka, she should be prepared for such incidents and find a way to overcome them.
"I feel sorry for Naomi, who was very affected by it. It is something that has always been part of the sport. 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," said Murray.
Murray lost to Alexander Bublik in straight sets in the second round of the Indian Wells Masters on Sunday.
Also Check Out: Indian Wells Masters 2022 Schedule
Who is Naomi Osaka's boyfriend? All you need to know about the tennis star's dating history timeline