Fan ejected during match at BNP Paribas Open

·4 min read
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 08: Courtmaster Jeffrey Brooker cleans the center court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 08, 2020 in Indian Wells, California. The BNP Paribas Open was cancelled by the Riverside County Public Health Department, as county officials declared a public health emergency when a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) was confirmed in the area. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Courtmaster Jeffrey Brooker cleans the center court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. (Al Bello / Getty Images)

Fans behaving badly, the sequel.

A spectator was ejected from Stadium 2 during a third-round match between Canada’s Denis Shapovalov and American Reilly Opelka on Monday, two days after a woman’s heckling of Naomi Osaka drove the four-time Grand Slam singles winner to tears early in her eventual loss to Veronika Kudermetova.

Shapovalov said two people repeatedly shouted at inappropriate times during his BNP Paribas Open match against Opelka and that he asked for one to be escorted out when that person’s actions became “kind of excessive.” Opelka asked for the other to be escorted out, Shapovalov said.

“They both, like, really stood out from the fans, the other fans,” Shapovalov said after Opelka rallied for a 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory. “It wasn't anything, like, disrespectful I would say. Not like Naomi's case. Not too bad.”

The spectator who yelled out, “You suck, Naomi,” after Osaka conceded a service break in her match Saturday was not ejected. Osaka said during an on-court interview after the match that the comment had triggered memories of a video she saw documenting the abusive comments that were directed toward Serena and Venus Williams and their father Richard at this tournament in 2001. Osaka has not commented publicly since then.

Shapovalov said incidents of tennis fans’ rude behavior had been relatively rare before this week. “It’s a shame because people come out to watch great players like Naomi. I don't know what the reason was. There's no use for saying something like that,” he said. “Like, I can relate to Naomi. Not to speak for her, but I think she's put everything she can into her tennis.

“When you step out on the court and someone says, ‘You suck,’ something like that, it sucks. It sucks to hear or feel that. It's difficult, but yeah, unfortunately we need to put up with it because there's no controlling what other people do and what other people say.”

Osaka has said she began experiencing depression in 2018, and she took a mental health break last year. Other players who competed Monday said they sympathized with the distress she felt Saturday but said rude comments are a problem they’ve generally learned to live with.

“The easy answer for me is I feel terrible about what happened. That should never happen,” Rafael Nadal said when asked about Osaka after he had defeated Daniel Evans and advanced to the fourth round.

“The real thing, in the real world, that happens, you know? I feel very sorry for her. We are having, in my opinion, a great life. 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. Even if is terrible to hear that, we need to be prepared for that, no? We need to resist these kind of issues that can happen when you are exposed to the people, 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?

“I understand that probably Naomi suffered a lot with probably [the] kind of issues that she has, mental 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.”

Daniil Medvedev, who was upset by Gael Monfils on Monday, had his own experiences with hostile fans at this year’s Australian Open. During the final against Nadal, he said of fans who shouted during his second serve: “They are idiots. Empty-brained.” The crowd booed him steadily.

He said he hadn’t seen a replay of the incident involving Osaka but said he felt for her. “I felt not great in Australia,” he said. “I can feel the fans that maybe going to say, ‘What the hell? You know they're getting millions. They should, you know, be ready for everything.’ At the same time we're humans. We all make mistakes, good decisions. Sometimes we feel bad. Sometimes we feel good.

“So basically I can understand that Naomi didn't feel that great when she heard it and I can completely understand her feelings.”

Monfils also sympathized with Osaka and said fans sometimes note her superstar status but forget she’s still relatively young (24) and might be fragile. “It’s not easy, even [if] you're doing it for many years, but it's not easy, you know?” he said. “No one can tell you when you walk on the court even. You know, when the people scream the name you don't have goosebumps. You know, there's no chance. So imagine when the people start to be negative, it's really hard. It's really hard. And we all have this at some stage and it's not easy.

“So I hope she will find peace for her, you know, and then I hope she won't let this go too far because she's a real champion.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.