Naomi Osaka fought back tears after exiting Indian Wells in the second round as she said a heckler in the crowd affected her.
The Japanese star, playing just her third event since taking a break in September to concentrate on her mental health, was taunted in the second game of the match after losing her opening service game.
During a lull in play before Kudermetova was due to serve in the second game, a female spectator in the crowd was clearly heard yelling, ‘Naomi, you suck’.
The 24-year-old looked visibly distressed, not managing to win a single game in the first set as she slipped to a 6-0 6-4 loss, and could later be seen wiping away tears.
During a change of ends, a tearful Osaka even asked the umpire if she could use her microphone to speak to the heckler directly.
While that request was denied, the former world number one was allowed to give an on-court post-match interview – which is usually reserved for the winner.
As Osaka held back the tears, she told the crowd that the incident reminded her of when Venus and Serena Williams were booed at the same tournament in 2001 – an incident which saw them boycott Indian Wells for 14 years.
‘I feel like I’ve cried enough on camera but I just wanted to say… to be honest, I’ve been heckled before and it didn’t really bother me,’ said an emotional Osaka.
‘But it’s like, being heckled here… I’ve watched a video of Venus and Serena getting heckled here and if you’ve never watched it you should watch it.
‘And I don’t know why, but it went into my head and it got replayed a lot. I’m trying not to cry. I just want to say thank you, and congratulations [to Kudermetova].’
In 2001 Venus and Serena Williams and their father, Richard, were jeered after Venus pulled out of the sisters’ scheduled semi-final meeting at the last minute due to a knee injury.
Serena was then booed when she took to the court for the final against Kim Clijsters. Venus and Richard were taunted when they took to their seats to watch the match.
Serena did not return to play in the tournament until 2015 while Venus came back in 2016.
– With metro.co.uk input