Rafael Nadal recently gave his two cents on the controversial heckling incident involving Naomi Osaka at the 2022 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. While the Spaniard sympathized with the Japanese, he was of the opinion that professional athletes needed to be better prepared to deal with hostility from the fans.
Osaka broke down in tears after she was heckled during her second-round match against Veronika Kudermetova in Indian Wells. The four-time Grand Slam champion went on to lose the contest after clearly being rattled by the incident.
Speaking at his press conference after outclassing Dan Evans in straight sets in the third round, Nadal remarked that hecklers are a part and parcel of tennis. The Mallorcan noted that players should be able to tolerate hostility from the crowd and move on without dwelling too much on such things.
"Even if it is terrible to hear that, we need to be prepared for it. We need to resist these kind of issues that can happen when you are exposed to the people," Nadal said. "[Just] as we like it a lot when people are supporting [us], when something like this happens, we need to accept it and move forward. Nothing is perfect in this life. We need to be ready for adversities."
The 35-year-old asserted that "the terrible" thing that happened to Naomi Osaka should never happen again, but at the same time pointed out that such things were unavoidable in the real world. Furthermore, the former World No. 1 declared that tennis players were, for the most part, lucky enough to enjoy "a great life," implying that they should not allow a one-off negative incident to sully that.
"The easy answer for me is that I feel terrible about what happened [to Naomi Osaka], that it should never happen again. But, in the real world, that happens, you know? We have, in my opinion, a great life," he said. "We are very lucky people that we're able to enjoy amazing experiences because of our life, because we are tennis players. We make money."
Rafael Nadal also hoped that the 24-year-old could recover from the setback soon, noting that her past struggles with mental health issues could have exaggerated the latest incident's impact on her psyche.
"I understand that probably Naomi [Osaka] - she has suffered a lot with these kinds of issues - has mental issues," Nadal said. "The only thing that I wish her is [that she] recover well from that and I wish her all the very best. I feel very sorry for her."
"I cannot make drastic changes like I did in the past, so that's why I decided to stop and have 3 weeks before the clay season" - Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal also shed light on the reasons for his withdrawal from the upcoming Miami Masters. The World No. 4 revealed that he made the decision considering the stress on his body in recent weeks.
Having played four tournaments since the start of the year, the Mallorcan felt that the work load was more than what he expected to take on at the age of 35. Nadal added that he needed enough time to make the transition to clay, which he cannot do as quickly as he used to in his younger days.
"I haven't played Miami for the last couple of years. I'm almost 36. I played much more than what I expected at the beginning of the season. For my body, it is not good to have quick transitions from different surfaces," Nadal said. "If I play Miami, I will not have time to rest and not time to make a swift transition to the clay."
The 21-time Grand Slam champion claimed that by withdrawing from Miami, he would have three weeks to prepare for the start of his favorite clay season.
"I had to push very since the beginning, so that's dangerous for my foot, for my knees. I need to make that transition step by step," he said. "I cannot make drastic changes like I did in the past, so that's why I decided to stop after here and have three weeks before the clay court season starts for me."
The former World No. 1 will take on 17th seed Reilly Opelka in his last-16 fixture at Indian Wells. The American came back from a set down to defeat 13th seed Denis Shapovalov in the third round and book a meeting with the fourth seed.
Having lost his only previous meeting against Nadal (at the 2021 Rome Masters), the World No. 17 will be looking for revenge. The Mallorcan, on the other hand, will be looking for his 18th straight win of the year.
Also Check Out: Indian Wells Masters 2022 Schedule