The match ended moments ago. Veronika Kudermetova waits for the microphone to be installed on the field to answer the announcer’s three questions, as after any win over central Indian Wells. A few meters from the Russian player, Naomi Osaka puts her things away and puts her bag with rackets on her shoulders.
But instead of leaving the stadium, the Japanese, defeated in two sets (6-0, 6-4), discusses with the facilitator of the meeting, as at the end of the first set, then sits down in her chair . Kudermetova’s interview is over, she walks to the microphone and begins hesitantly in a short, awkward monologue.
“To be honest, I’ve been harassed in the past without really bothering me, but here I’m being harassed…”
“I just wanted to thank you, she whispers to loud applause from the audience. (Her eyes fill with tears). I think I’ve cried enough for the cameras… (She stops). To be honest I’ve been interviewed before without really bothering me but here I was heckled… I watched a video of Venus and Serena (Willems) being bullied here. If you’ve never seen it, you should. I don’t know why, but it crossed my mind. It was in a loop in my head. I’m trying not to cry… I just want to thank you. And (against Kudermetova, who remained on the edge of the court) Congratulations. Just thank you. †
Osaka is referring here to the whistle of the sisters Williams, Venus and Serena, in Indian Wells in 2001. Four minutes before the start of the semifinal between the two Americans, Venus, the eldest, withdrew, citing a right knee. tendonitis. The announcement of his withdrawal and the rumor that it would be a diplomatic injury decided by the father and trainer of the prodigies, Richard Williams, had caused a huge boo from the public.
The next day, when Venus and her father sat in the stands to watch Serena’s final against Kim Clijsters, the entire stadium cheered. Also scrutinized during the match, after that Serena will not set foot in tennis paradise for 14 years during the trophy presentation despite her victory (4-6, 6-4, 6-2). Venus, she will wait another year, 2016, to return to play the California tournament.
Saturday night we were far from such a hostile atmosphere – the Williams had called out the racist hints from the crowd at the time – to Naomi Osaka, quite a lot of applause as she entered the court. But from the first seconds of the match, the 78th in the world stopped the game and challenged the referee after hearing a woman scream in the stands. According to American journalist Ben Rothenberg, she said: ‘Naomi, you’re stupid! † translation: ‘Naomi, you’re stupid! †
Broken from the start, the former world No. 1 couldn’t hold back her tears and spent almost the entire first set, losing 6-0 in 31 minutes and trying to hold back her sobs. She held on in the second run, but eventually gave up.
Less than a year after the affair of the press conferences at Roland-Garros and his package a few days later, followed by other tears at the Tokyo Olympics in late July, Osaka, who had mentioned “different stages of depression” since the US Open 2018 and the difficulties in “manage(s) one fear in public”seems very vulnerable again.
On Saturday, the player again decided not to go to the conference after the game, when she was asked by several journalists prior to the meeting and was therefore obliged to go there. However, given the circumstances, it is possible that no sanction will be applied.