Jim Courier recently gave his two cents on Naomi Osaka’s heckling incident at the 2022 Indian Wells Open, saying that she has the right to prioritize her mental health over everything else.
The American feels that if Osaka can find a way to do that, she has the ability to pick up from where she left off.The four-time Grand Slam champion was brought to tears by a heckler during her second-round match against Veronika Kudermetova at Indian Wells. Clearly rattled by the incident, she lost the match 6-0, 6-4 in shocking fashion.
Speaking on The Craig Shapiro Tennis Podcast, Courier remarked that if the Japanese wanted to take a breather, it would not be a major problem for her. Highlighting some big moments in her career, such as the 2018 US Open title she won by defeating Serena Williams in the final, the former World No. 1 asserted that Osaka is no stranger to withstanding pressure.
“This game doesn’t really wait for anybody, yeah. But her health is the primary. Her talent isn’t going anywhere. If Naomi Osaka stays healthy and feels comfortable coming back, whether it takes a year, a week or five years, she can still continue to achieve in the sport,” Courier said.
“I don’t think she is going to get passed or she is going to become unviable. She has shown that she is an amazing athlete who can withstand enormous pressure.”
The four-time Grand Slam champion was of the opinion that Naomi Osaka is on a “journey” to figure out how to manage people’s expectations for her. While there is a long way to go for the former World No. 1, Courier has no doubt she will eventually come to terms with everything that’s going on.
In the meantime, he hoped fans would be more patient with her.
“I hope [Naomi Osaka] continues to pursue peace of mind in her career. [The heckling incident] was just another example that she is on a journey to find that balance between being able to come out and do the job that she is so good at and being able to manage all the aspects that come with it, including criticism and heckler,” Courier said.
“There is still plenty of road to travel and she has a lot of exciting things off court that she can keep busy with, if that’s what gets her excited in the morning,” he added.
“It is going to be hard for Naomi Osaka if she doesn’t find the right work-life balance, I feel for her” – Jim Courier
Jim Courier hopes Naomi Osaka can find the right “work-life balance” for herself.
Nadal on Naomi Osaka: “I feel for her, but we need to be prepared for that. We need to deal with these kind of issues that can happen when you are exposed to the people. Nothing is perfect in life.”
In a nutshell, Nadal sympathized with Naomi Osaka but said that athletes should be better prepared for such events since they were unavoidable. Courier, on his part, hoped the Japanese could internalize the Mallorcan’s advice and make peace with this particular aspect of being a professional tennis player.
“If you read what [Rafael Nadal] Nadal said about it, his tone is purely empathetic. He is empathizing with her, but also stating pretty clearly that it is part of the job and that you have to make peace with it,” Courier said.
“You have to find a way to get past mean people because there are mean people in the world. That’s the real struggle that Naomi Osaka is hopefully on a journey to coming to terms with if she wants to be a pro tennis player.”
The American made it clear that only two things are vital for Osaka at the moment – for her to be “happy” and “healthy.”
If she cannot figure out that “work-life balance” in time, however, Courier expects the 24-year-old to have a hard time navigating the intricacies of the tour.
“We want her to be happy. We want her to be healthy. That’s the first and foremost. If she can achieve those two things, then come back and play — she is an amazing talent and she can do more great things in the sport,” Courier said. “It is going to be hard for [Naomi Osaka] if she doesn’t find the right work-life balance. I feel for her.”
On the tennis side of things, Naomi Osaka will begin her campaign at the Miami Open against Australia’s Astra Sharma. A win against Sharma would pit the former World No. 1 against 13th seed Angelique Kerber.