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Osaka says therapy helped her win Miami Open match; players shocked by Barty retirement – Kenosha News

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The shocking news of top-ranked Ash Barty’s retirement from tennis at age 25, just two months after winning the Australian Open on her home soil, reverberated 10,000 miles away at the Miami Open on Wednesday.
Former No. 1 Naomi Osaka, who won her opening match 6-3, 6-4 over Astra Sharma in front of an adoring hometown audience at Hard Rock Stadium, learned of Barty’s retirement at 3:30 in the morning, when she checked her phone after waking up to use the bathroom.
“My friend texted me, she’s like, ‘Yo, do you know that Barty retired?’’’ and I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s weird.’ Then I went on Twitter and saw it was actually a thing.”
Osaka added: “It’s cool to leave the game when you’re No. 1. You feel like you have nothing left to prove, like you’ve accomplished everything you wanted to. … She clearly knew what she wanted to do.”
Iga Swiatek of Poland, who is ranked No. 2 and could take over the No. 1 spot if Barty chooses to remove herself from the WTA rankings, said she was “crying for a long time” upon finding out the news Tuesday night. She spent the better part of her pre-tournament press conference talking about Barty’s retirement.
“When I heard the news, I was really emotional, not because of my position, but more because her retiring at such a young age was pretty hard for me to digest,” Swiatek said. “I think she’s brave that she has made this decision with all the expectations around. There are not many people who would stop at this point and put their happiness in first place.
“I think that’s an example for not only us tennis players or other athletes, but ever person, if they are satisfied, they should think about their goals, not really what the world thinks.”
Swiatek said she worked on defending the slice over the offseason specifically in case she had to face Barty and lamented that she will not have another chance to play the Australian.
“I felt sadness because when I think of a player that is really complete in terms of physicality, mentality, tennis-wise, I always thought of Ash and looked up to her,” Swiatek said. “I still do. It would have been really nice to be able to compete against her for the next few years and try to beat her slice. We’re going to miss her for sure.”
American Danielle Collins said Barty’s retirement “speaks to the way our sport empowers women,” pointing out that tennis is the highest-paid women’s sport in the world.
“I think it’s so cool being able to retire at 25,” Collins said. “What other profession would you be able to do that in? Not too many. I think it’s incredible for our sport.”
Barty’s retirement was also the buzz among the men in the tournament.
“I watched the entire video in disbelief,” said third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas. “She’s been doing incredibly well. Honestly, she’s at the peak of her game right now, having won Wimbledon and the Aussie Open recently.”
Taylor Fritz is 24 and reaching his prime. On Sunday he beat Rafael Nadal in the final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, becoming the first American male to win a Master 1000 level event since John Isner won the 2018 Miami Open. Fritz’s ranking rose to a career-high No. 13 this week and if his shaky ankle holds up, he aims to make a deep run at the Miami Open.
Retirement is not on his radar.
But his mother, Kathy May, was a top-10 player who reached three Grand Slam quarterfinals and retired when she was 24 or 25. Fritz said he understands why a tennis player like Barty might be ready to put away the racket.
“This is such a stressful sport,” he said. “Having to worry about defending your points, your ranking, your sponsor, it’s so stressful, especially if you’re someone who puts pressure on yourself. It’s very mentally draining. I can definitely understand someone who’s accomplished a lot, done everything they wanted to, being happy to call it.”
If anyone knows about the stress of tennis, it’s Osaka, who has battled mental health issues the past few years. She walked off the court in tears last week at Indian Wells after being heckled by a fan.
On Wednesday, she wore a big smile after her match, told the crowd that she felt at home, mentioned that she grew up in Pembroke Pines and that she was happy to be in a place with good Haitian food (Osaka is of Haitian-Japanese heritage).
“I felt better [Wednesday] and didn’t want to let anything bother me,” she said. “The situation in Indian Wells, I’ve thought back on it and realize I’ve never been heckled. I’ve been booed, but not a direct yell-out thing. It kind of took me out of my element. I feel like I’m prepared for it now. I was bracing myself before the match to know it could happen. I just needed to change my mindset.”
Osaka shared that she has been speaking to a therapist in recent days at the urging of her sister, Mari, and coach, Wim Fissette.
“My sister seemed very concerned for me,” Osaka said. “I’ve been trying a lot of different things because I tend to internalize things, and I always want to do everything myself. Wim said, ‘You hire a coach for tennis, for fitness. The mind is such a big thing. If you can get a professional to help you out .5 percent, that alone is worth it.”
So far, so good. Osaka plays again Thursday against Angelique Kerber.
“[The therapist] told me strategies and I realize how helpful it is,” Osaka said. “I’m glad I have people around me that told me to go in that direction. I was remembering all the things she told me to do, take deep breaths and reset myself when I need to.”
In other matches Wednesday: Argentine brothers Francisco Cerundolo and Juan Manuel Cerundolo won their back-to-back matches on Court 5. Francisco, 23, beat Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 and younger brother Juan Manuel, 20, beat Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-3, 7-5.
American Mackenzie McDonald beat Dominik Koepfer of Germany 6-7 (8-10), 6-4, 6-4 on Stadium Court. On the women’s side American Madison Brengle advanced with a 6-2, 6-1 win over wild card Alexandra Eala of the Philippines.
Thursday’s night session will feature former No. 1 Andy Murray against Federico Delbonis of Argentina and No. 1 women’s seed Aryna Sabalenka against Irina-Cameia Begu of Romania.
©2022 Miami Herald. Visit miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Copyright 2022 Tribune Content Agency.

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