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Andy Murray ‘feels for’ Naomi Osaka after being targeted by Indian Wells heckler

Naomi Osaka was visibly upset after being targeted by a heckler at the Indian Wells Masters, and went on to lose her second round match in straight sets

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Andy Murray has expressed his sympathy for Naomi Osaka after she was heckled – but has warned his fellow tennis stars that they must learn to ‘tolerate’ such abuse.

Osaka was visibly upset during her second round match against Veronika Kudermetova at the Indian Wells Masters, after she was targeted by a heckler in the crowd.

The Japanese tennis star produced an inspiring comeback victory over Sloane Stephens in her first match in California, but fell in straight sets to the world number 24.

She had clearly been affected by a fan who shouted “Naomi, you suck” during the first set, and she wanted to use the umpire’s microphone to talk back – a request which was denied.

Naomi Osaka was reduced to tears by a heckler at the Indian Wells Masters
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USA TODAY Sports)

Osaka lost the first set without winning a game, before a 6-4 defeat in the second saw her Indian Wells campaign come to an end.

The 24-year-old cried during her post-match interview and revealed that the comment had affected her so much because it had reminded her of boos suffered by Serena and Venus Williams at the same event in 2001.

British star Murray was asked about his thoughts on the incident in his post-match interview after his own defeat at the hands of Alexander Bublik.

“It’s a difficult one,” he said. “I’ve often thought watching certain sports, I wouldn’t say I’ve often seen it loads in tennis – I know it’s happened but I don’t think it’s that common in tennis.

“But if I watch a football match and a player’s going to take a throw-in or a corner kick and the crowd are just hurling insults at those individuals, I always think like, you know, how’s that allowed? You can’t do that.

“If you’re doing that to someone when you’re walking down the street or in any other sort of work environment, that’s obviously not tolerated.”

Andy Murray exited Indian Wells at the second round
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Murray went on to say he feels such incidents are always likely to remain part of elite-level sport, and that athletes need to “be able to deal with it”.

“I’ve obviously played in certain atmospheres as well myself in tennis, like Davis Cup atmospheres, away from home, especially where the atmosphere’s intense, and sometimes things are said and it’s not that comfortable.

“Obviously the people that come to watch, obviously you want them to be there and supporting the players and obviously not making it more difficult for them. I don’t know, but it’s also something that’s always just kind of been part of sports as well.

“If you go and watch a basketball match, for example, and a player’s taking free throws, I would say like almost every basketball match I’ve been to one of the players has been heckled by the crowd as well.

“And whilst it is wrong for those individuals to be doing it, the athletes obviously have to kind of be used to that as well or be able to deal with that too, even though it’s not pleasant.

“So, obviously I feel for Naomi, that obviously it upset her a lot, but it’s always been something that’s been part of sport as well. So you have to be prepared for that in some ways and be able to tolerate it because it does happen regularly across all sports.”

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