Barty Leaves At The Top Of Her Game, No Regrets

Ashleigh Barty (photo: Tennis Australia video)

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

A day after Ashleigh Barty made the stunning announcement of her retirement from pro tennis at age 25, she acknowledged that she’s been overwhelmed by the amount of support and love she’s received – and leaves pro tennis with no regrets.

Barty held a 20-minute press conference with international media in Brisbane, Australia Thursday.

“A lot of different things have happened in my life and that have changed my perspective and timing is everything. I just knew that for me, the time was right,” Barty said.

“I’d given absolutely everything that I could to the sport, and I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to my team or the people that have invested so much time and energy into my life to not be 100 percent committed to them.

“I’m excited for my next chapter as Ash Barty, the person and not the athlete.”

Barty, who won three Grand Slam singles titles and spent the past 114 consecutive weeks ranked World No. 1, confirmed she has requested to be removed from the WTA Rankings at the start of the next cycle, which will be following the conclusion of the Miami Open presented by Itaú on April 4.

“It’s a new start for the tour, which is going to be really exciting for them. They’ve got exceptional players, great depth. It’s going to be really exciting for them,” Barty said.

Barty was asked about the possibility of current World No. 2 Iga Swiatek of Poland ascending to No. 1. “I know that if it is Iga, there is no better person. She’s an incredible person, a great tennis player. The way that she’s brought this fresh, fearless energy onto the court has been incredible,” she said.

“I loved testing myself against her. I loved playing her. I loved practicing with her and spending time with her team. She’s a brilliant person, and was one of the first to message me, which is really nice.

“I think she thoroughly deserves it. I hope that she can take it and still be her, do it her own way, and really chase what she’s after in her career and her dreams.”

Barty was asked what she’s going to miss the most about her tennis career. She said: “I think there are a lot of things that I will miss, for sure. I think a lot of that is the relationships that we’ve built along the way with my team and with some of my best friends on tour. I’ll definitely miss seeing them.

“I know our paths will cross again, whether it’s down here in Australia or on their side of the world. But I know we’ll have that opportunity just in a different way, which is really exciting.

“I think as for a second chance, I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to already have a second chance. I had a second phase of my career that brought me so much fulfillment, that brought me so much happiness I’m really grateful to the people around me that helped me achieve that. They invested so much time and energy and made so many sacrifices in their own lives to try to work towards this dream that we did have.

“To be able to sit back now and know we left no stone unturned and we achieved everything we set out for is something I’m really proud of. …

“I have no regrets. I mean, I don’t think about what could have been. I just appreciate what we did get to do and we we had, what we’ve created together. I think that’s a really special part of it.”

This time, Osaka didn’t let anything bother her

In her first match since being heckled by a spectator in Indian Wells earlier this month, 77th-ranked Naomi Osaka beat No. 96 Astra Sharma of Australia, 6-3, 6-4 in a first-round featured match at the Miami Open presented by Itaú Wednesday afternoon. It was her 50th WTA 1000 victory.

“I just didn’t want to let anything bother me today, no matter what happened,” Osaka said after her 81-minute victory advanced her to the second round against No. 13 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany.

Osaka, who lost just two points on her first serve and faced no break points, outpointed Sharma 72-49.

“The last match I played was not the greatest memory for me,” Osaka added during her on-court interview, referring to 6-0, 6-4 loss to No. 21 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia on March 12. “I wanted to proved that I could come back out here and compete, and no matter if I won or lost, to just know that I had the best attitude I could.”

Back out on Hard Rock Stadium Thursday afternoon against Kerber, Osaka overpowered the three-time Grand Slam champion from start to finish and won easily, 6-2, 6-3, in 61 minutes. The Japanese superstar won on her third match point opportunity. She hit 32 winners and committed just 13 unforced errors while outpointing Kerber 61-39.

Tennis Channel analyst Martina Navratilova commented: “This has been a fantastic display of power and finesse from Osaka.”

Osaka’s next opponent will be No. 73 Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic, who has won both of her matches following a seven-month layout to recover from an abdominal injury to reach the third round. On Thursday, Muchova took out last year’s US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez of Canada, the 18th seed who was making her main-draw debut in Miami, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

A Miami quarterfinalist last year, Korda ready to start new run

With 18 of the top 20 players in the current ATP Rankings playing in this year’s Miami Open presented by Itaú, including defending champion Hubert Hurkacz, there’s plenty of star power who will see action by the weekend following first-round byes. Only World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and World No. 3 Rafael Nadal are absent from South Florida.

One of 16 Americans in the men’s singles draw looking ready to start a good run is No. 38 Sebastian Korda. The 21-year-old Bradenton, Fla. resident, who is at a career-high ranking, kicked off play inside Hard Rock Stadium Thursday afternoon with an impressive 71-minute 6-1, 6-1 victory over No. 43 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain.

“I played some long points. It was pretty warm out there, so I am super happy to get through,” Korda said during his on-court interview that followed his victory. “I made him run around a bit. I think I did a good job on that today and am super happy with the way I played.”

A year ago, Korda made a run to the quarterfinals with wins over Fabio Fognini, Aslan Karatsev and Diego Schwartzman. “I made the quarterfinals last year and ever since I was a little kid I came to this tournament,” Korda recalled. “Now to be able to be here and compete myself, I think little Sebi would be very happy.”

In the next round, Korda will face No. 32 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain.

World class field coming to 45th edition of Porsche Tennis Grand Prix

When the 45th edition of the WTA 500 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix kicks off the women’s European spring clay season in Stuttgart, Germany on April 16, not only will fans be back inside Porsche Arena, the draw will include an impressive eight Top 10 players and 17 of the current Top 20, led by current World No. 2 Iga Swiatek of Poland.

In addition, there will be six former Grand Slam champions – Swiatek, Barbora Krejcikova, Jelena Ostapenko, Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka and Emma Raducanu. There are also three former Stuttgart winners in the field: Kerber, who won titles in 2015 and 2016, Laura Siegemund (2017) and Karolina Pliskova (2018).

Making their Porsche Tennis Grand Prix debut will be Raducanu, recently named a Porsche Brand Ambassador, and Coco Gauff, who turned 18 earlier this month.

“We’ve got a sensational field and spectators back in the indoor arena. We couldn’t ask for more,” said Tournament Director Markus Günthhardt. “The fact that virtually all the Top 20 will be contesting our tournament is amazing. The players love coming to us because they feel at home here. We offer them conditions in which they can perform at their best and our crowd also creates a fantastic atmosphere, no matter whether there are two stars or two qualifiers on court. The players know that such an atmosphere is not one they get to experience at many of the world’s tournaments.”

Robredo to retire after Barcelona Open

On Thursday, former World No. 5 Tommy Robredo of Spain announced he would retire this spring. The 39-year-old Robredo, a native of Hostalric, Spain, will formally retire at the ATP 500 Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell tournament (April 18-24). The 343rd-ranked Robredo will retire having won 12 individual ATP singles titles and three Davis Cups as well reaching seven Grand Slam quarterfinals and compiling over 500 ATP Tour victories. Most recently, he also won a pair of ATP Challenger Tour events in Poznan, Poland and Parma, Italy, both on clay, in 2019.

What they’re sharing on social media

Dominic Thiem of Austria, who has been sidelined with various wrist and hand injuries since June of last year, announced on social media Thursday he will start his comeback next week at the AnyTech365 Andalusia Open Challenger in Marbella, Spain on clay.

The 50th-ranked Thiem, wrote: “Hi everyone, I wanted to let you know that I will be playing this upcoming week a tournament in Marbella, Spain. I want to start getting contact with the competition after all these months and I believe this is the right way to start.”

By the numbers

• When Borna Coric beat 150th-ranked Spanish qualifier Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 7-5 in the opening round of the Miami Open on Wednesday, it was the 167th-ranked Croatian’s first win in more than a year in just his second match in more than a year. The victory advanced Coric to face World No. 4 and second seed Alexander Zverev of Germany in the Friday’s second round.

• Sixteen-year-old wild card Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic scored her first win at WTA 1000 level with her 84-minute 6-0, 6-4 win over Danka Kovinic of Montenegro Wednesday after. The junior World No. 3 was competing in just her fourth WTA main draw. The win was Fruhvirtova’s first completed Top 100 victory, after having previously defeated Alizé Cornet via retirement last April in Charleston, S.C. on clay.

“Quotable …”

“I am not as shocked as I was when Justine Henin retired just before the French Open years ago, but I’m a little surprised. I heard some rumblings that Ash was considering this, but I was hoping it wasn’t the case, for tennis’ sake. For her sake, I’m glad she has the clarity – she knows what she wants – and I wish her nothing but happiness.”

— Hall of Fame great Martina Navratilova commenting on Tennis Channel Wednesday on the news of Ashleigh Barty’s retirement from pro tennis.