“We Need To Be Prepared For That, No?” | Rafael Nadal Thinks Naomi Osaka Needs To “Move Forward”

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The tennis world reacted to Naomi Osaka’s heckler moment at Indian Wells, and it wasn’t favorable to the community of mental health.

Fellow tennis players Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal were asked their opinions, and while supportive, they both echoed the sentiment that comes with the game.

“The easy answer for me is I feel terrible about what happened, that never should happen,” Nadal said post-match at the press conference at Indian Wells.

Tennis Reacts

Nadal defeated British star Dan Evans 7-5, 6-3.

This sets up a Round of 16 match-ups with either Reilly Opelka or Denis Shapovalov. The win continues an impressive start of 2022 for Nadal.

Nadal defeated Daniil Medvedev in the final, 2–6, 6–7, 6–4, 6–4, 7–5, to win the men’s singles tennis title at the 2022 Australian Open. It was his second Australian Open title and 21st major singles title overall.

The win surpassed the all-time record shared with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. However, Nadal was cautious of Osaka’s reaction to her detractors.

Nadal Speaks

“Even if it is terrible to hear from that, we need to be prepared for that, no?

“At the same time, as we like a lot when the people are supporting, when something like this happens, we need to accept and move forward, no?

“We need to resist these kind of issues that can happen when you are exposed to the people, no?”

Nadal’s sentiment seems par for the course when it comes to fame and athletics on the top levels. But for Osaka, fame is an albatross that brings forth her insecurities and pressures as a high-level sports and marketing star.

What Happened?

Osaka was brought to tears at the tournament in the desert after a heckler called out, “Naomi, you suck.”

The action triggered Osaka, who has already been honest about her mental health journey since stopping Serena Williams’s bid for a 24th Grand Slam singles title in February 2020.

Osaka swept Williams 6-3, 6-4 in the Australian Open semifinals, her 20th consecutive match win. However, the windfall of success led to fame, which always brings some polarization.

When Osaka’s emotions spilled over after going down 0-3 in her second-round match last weekend, the tears flowed from the Haitian-Japanese star courtside.

Unconventional Dismissal

Osaka tried an unconventional approach when she petitioned the chair umpire to address the fan and crowd over the microphone. Her request was immediately denied.

Although the 24-year-old resumed the match and excelled in the second set, Veronika Kudermetova was strong and won 6-0, 6-4.

Although Osaka has been exposed to heckling in the past, she said it felt different this time, perhaps because it was the site of the infamous incident against the Williams sisters.

Osaka said on court post-match that the incident was a harsh reminder of the Williams sister’s treatment at Indian Wells in 2001.

The Williams Way

Venus withdrew from her semifinal against Serena with a knee injury, but the crowd wasn’t having it and booed Venus and her father Richard Williams when they took their seats to watch the final match. Richard reportedly was the target of racial slurs from the crowd.

Then 19-years-old with a Grand Slam title already to her name, Serena won the U.S. Open in 1999 and then Indian Wells.

In a “Red Table Talk” interview with Will Smith last year, Serena explained the trauma she experienced from the hecklers that led to a 14-year boycott.

“Talk about post-traumatic stress and mental anxiety,” Williams said.

Tough Skin

However, Williams returned to the event in 2015 following her 14-year boycott. Nadal feels the same but added that he wishes the best for her recovery.

“I understand that probably Naomi suffered a lot with these, probably kind of issues that she has, mental (health) issues. The only thing that I wish her is recover well from that and wish her all the very best.

“But the life, nothing is perfect in this life, no? We need to be ready for adversities.”

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.