Tennis doesn’t want Naomi Osaka’s

Naomi Osaka loves tennis, but tennis doesn’t seem to love her back.


Osaka is in the news again, and again, it’s not for something she’s accomplished on the court, but for something that’s happened to her at her workplace. Over the weekend, Osaka lost 6-0, 6-4 in the second round to Veronika Kudermetova at the BNP Paribas Open. The world’s former No. 1 player didn’t have a good day. She got rattled after a woman screamed “Naomi, you suck,” during the first game of the match.


That’s not supposed to happen. Not because it’s Osaka, but because the “decorum” of a game like tennis doesn’t allow fan behavior in that manner. This isn’t football or basketball. Tennis is supposed to be sophisticated and elegant. Jeering from the stands is unacceptable. Yet, it was allowed to happen. Osaka requested that the fan be removed and even wanted to address the crowd, but she wasn’t allowed to do so until after the match.




“To be honest, I’ve gotten heckled before, it didn’t really bother me,” Osaka said with tears in her eyes. “But [being] heckled here, I watched a video of Venus and Serena [Williams] getting heckled here, and if you’ve never watched it, you should watch it. I don’t know why, but it went into my head, and it got replayed a lot. I’m trying not to cry.”


The visual of a young Black and Asian woman being treated this way, in the same place where Venus and Serena Williams were once belittled, can’t be ignored. It’s a very loud example of how the sport of tennis has never been fond of Black stars, especially when they’re women.



“I walked out onto the court, the crowd immediately started jeering and booing,” Serena Williams wrote for Time Magazine in 2015 about what happened to her at Indian Wells in 2001. “In my last match, the semifinals, I was set to play my sister, but Venus had tendinitis and had to pull out. Apparently that angered many fans.

Throughout my whole career, integrity has been everything to me. It is also everything and more to Venus. The false allegations that our matches were fixed hurt, cut, and ripped into us deeply.


The under­current of racism was painful, confusing, and unfair. In a game I loved with all my heart, at one of my most cherished tournaments, I suddenly felt unwelcome, alone and afraid.”


I was wrong. It’s not that tennis doesn’t love Naomi Osaka. It’s that society hates the greatness of Black women.




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