Tennis star Naomi Osaka in tears on court after being heckled at Indian Wells

Osaka's openness about mental health prompted tournament organisers to commit to making 'meaningful improvements'. Credit: AP

Naomi Osaka was in tears on the court during her second-round defeat at the BNP Paribas Masters in Indian Wells, after being heckled from the crowd.

The Japanese star was jeered in the early part of the match, with a spectator reportedly shouting "Naomi, you suck".

The incident was undoubtedly a major factor as she lost 6-0 6-4 to world number 24 Veronika Kudermetova.

Osaka has spoken openly about her own mental health and the pressures of professional sport, taking time out from the sport last year.

Grand Slam organisers were at the time criticised for how they handled player experience and mental health after the 24-year-old announced she was dropping out of the French Open following a row over her decision not to speak to the media or take part in post-match press conferences.

Osaka made the unconventional decision to stay on court after her defeat and be interviewed, where she said the incident reminded her of a video she watched of Venus and Serena Williams receiving abuse at the same venue in 2001.

The Williams sisters boycotted the event – widely regarded to be the biggest outside of the four grand slams – for 14 years after being racially abused 21 years ago.

Naomi Osaka, left, of Japan, shakes hands with Veronika Kudermetova, of Russia. Credit: AP

Speaking through tears on court, Osaka said: “I just wanted to say thank you, I feel like I cry enough on camera.

“To be honest, I’ve been heckled before, it doesn’t really bother me, but being heckled here, I watched a video of Venus and Serena getting heckled here, if you’ve never watched it you should watch it and I don’t know why, but it got into my head and it got replayed a lot.”

Osaka was playing her first tournament since the Australian Open in January where she lost in the third round.

Russian Kudermetova, playing under a neutral banner due to her country’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, said: “Naomi was reminded of something that happened with Serena here a few years ago.

“She started to cry because it is similar to what’s happened with Serena. But it doesn’t matter. I know she’s strong, a great person. I think it will be good with her.”