Tennis legend Chris Evert has backed Naomi Osaka and urged her to continue to have "thick skin" as she deals with the weight of pressure and expectation on her.
Evert has previously given her views on hecklers in tennis and Osaka being a "bright light" in the sport after her experience at Indian Wells when a spectator shouted "Naomi, you suck” at the Japanese star at the event in the California desert, with the four-time Grand Slam champion visibly upset during her defeat against Veronika Kudermetova.
The 24-year-old has since returned in a much more positive setting at the Miami Open as she reached the final, only to lose to new world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, and Evert believes it is crucial that she continues to block out any negativity.
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"We are all fans of Naomi Osaka and we have seen the high level of tennis that she can play and we have seen her win Grand Slams," Evert told Eurosport in an extended interview ahead of the French Open.
"We recognise that she is a very sensitive person and this kind of life of winning tournaments, being No. 1, winning Grand Slams, this competition with everything that comes along with it, being sort of a target for anybody to talk about, being judged and social media, how your privacy is taken away from you.
"It is not just playing a match on the court, it is everything that goes along with it. It has been a struggle for her and I think that she is just sensitive and she is just vulnerable.
"You have to have thick skin, that's a reality and that's not a criticism. If you don't have thick skin, you can develop thick skin because you've got to understand that if you are this successful, you are out in the open for anybody to judge and for anybody to talk about you.
"There are a lot of people out there who are not happy with their own lives. So they sort of interject into other people's lives their opinion and their negativity.
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"I've always thought that if you are successful in any field and you are making millions and millions of dollars on the tennis court and endorsement sponsorships, that you pay the price. There's a price for everything.
"You can't just go smooth, you can't avoid the pitfalls of success. You have to understand that and do the best you can, but you have to be thick-skinned and realise that if somebody takes a pot shot or somebody takes a shot at you, that is their problem. That is not your problem."
Osaka will be looking to win her fifth Grand Slam singles title when she plays at Roland Garros in May and has said that she will be watching plenty of videos of Rafael Nadal ahead of the tournament.
“I’m going to watch a lot of Nadal videos to see how he moves,” she told the WTA website.
"I just think that knowing I’m still a student and I have to keep learning, clay and grass is something I really want to tackle this year. So I’m willing kind of to do whatever it takes to get good results. Not that results are everything, but I really want to do well.
“I’m clearly not a clay expert, but I feel like if I get my movement together, I should be pretty good."
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