Victoria Azarenka says she regrets beginning her Miami Open match against Linda Fruhvirtova after retiring during the second set of the third-round encounter.

The former world number one blamed an "extremely stressful" time in her personal life for the withdrawal, calling her decision to play a "mistake" and pledging to learn from the incident.

Azarenka was trailing 6-2 3-0 against 16-year-old Czech Fruhvirtova when she abruptly ended the match, having earlier shouted "why am I here?" at her coaching team.

The two-time Australian Open champion also broke down in tears after her third-round defeat to Elena Rybakina at Indian Wells earlier this month, deleting her social media accounts in the aftermath.

Via a statement released after her retirement from the tournament, the Belarusian said she should not have gone onto the court to face Fruhvirtova, blaming an "extremely stressful" time in her personal life for the incident.

"I shouldn't have gone on the court today," the 32-year-old said.

"The last few weeks have been extremely stressful in my personal life. 

"[My] last match took so much out of me, but I wanted to play in front of a great audience as they helped me pull through my first match.

"I wanted to go out there and try but it was a mistake. I always look forward to the challenge and pressure of competition but today it was too much. 

"I have to and will learn from this."

As a Belarusian, Azarenka has had to compete as a neutral player since her country's regime helped enable the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the participation of sportspeople from the two countries being a subject of intense discussion.

Serena and Venus Williams attended the Academy Awards on Sunday as Will Smith took home the Best Actor prize at this year's Oscar ceremony for playing their father in the biographical drama King Richard.

The Williams sisters, widely considered two of the sport's pre-eminent players with 30 grand slam singles titles between them, were executive producers on the film, which charts their meteoric rise.

King Richard was nominated for six Oscars in total, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress, for Aunjanue Ellis who plays the pair's mother Oracene Price.

It was not without controversy, however, after Smith – who takes on the role of the sisters' father Richard in the film – struck presenter Chris Rock for a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, shortly before accepting his honour.

"This night has been surreal," 23-time major winner Serena wrote on Instagram following the ceremony. "To spend it sitting next to my sisters meant more than anything.

"I am so grateful to The Academy for making this an unforgettable night, and to Will Smith for bringing this story to the big screen and honouring my family. This will always be a night to remember."

Smith overshadowed his own victory though following his altercation with comedian Rock.

He apologised to the Academy during his subsequent acceptance speech, in which he was tearful, while praising Richard Williams as a "fierce defender of his family".

"I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family for entrusting me with your story," he stated. "I want to apologise to the Academy. I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees.

"This is a beautiful moment and I'm not crying for winning an award. It's not about winning an award for me. Thank you for this moment and thank you on behalf of Richard and Oracene and the entire Williams family."

Iga Swiatek was in a ruthless mood as she coasted into the last 16 of the Miami Open, setting up an intriguing clash with Coco Gauff.

Swiatek was in action for the first time since ensuring she will be top of the pile after the next WTA rankings update, and she certainly showed world-number-one form against Madison Brengle in a 6-0 6-3 victory.

The 20-year-old Pole needed just 25 minutes to win the opening set, during which she hit 12 winners to Brengle's one.

Brengle gave a better account of herself in the second set but Swiatek still had far too much for her, with the latter remaining on course to become only the fourth woman to win the so-called 'Sunshine Double' of Indian Wells and the Miami Open.

But certain expectations – particularly those relating to her ranking – are not what Swiatek wants to think about at the moment, especially while she is so content out on the court.

She said: "I know the ranking can be pressure, but on the other hand when I was climbing up and I entered top 10 and top five, I felt the same feeling, and right now I don't want to repeat that. So I just focus on my game.

"I don't know what's going to happen after the tournament and the adrenaline will go down and I have more time to stress about that a little bit more, but for now I feel great. It's not like it's bothering me, it's more motivating me. So it's great."

Gauff, competing in her local tournament, awaits after showing admirable spirit to beat Zhang Shuai 7-6 (7-1) 7-5.

The 18-year-old had to save two set points in the opener before rallying back and producing a devastating display in the tiebreaker.

She then came back from 4-2 down in the second, winning five of the final six games to seal a hard-fought victory.

Another teenager hoping to leave a lasting impression is 16-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova, who became the youngest player to reach the fourth round in Miami since Maria Sharapova and Tatiana Golovin in 2004 – both were also 16.

Fruhvirtova was 6-2 3-0 up over Victoria Azarenka before the three-time Miami Open winner retired, giving the youngster her first top-20 scalp.

Jessica Pegula, Petra Kvitova and Paula Badosa were among the others to secure their progression on Sunday.

Nick Kyrgios has defended Emma Raducanu amid a wave of recent criticism following the US Open champion's early exit from the Miami Open.

Raducanu was beaten by Katerina Siniakova in her first match in Miami this week after being given a bye into the second round.

She has won only four WTA Tour matches since sensationally becoming the first qualifier – male or female – to win a major in the Open Era at Flushing Meadows in September.

The 19-year-old has been in demand off the court, having last week announced she will be a brand ambassador for Porsche, but her business activities have attracted criticism.
 
Speaking after Raducanu's defeat to Siniakova, former world number five Daniela Hantuchova claimed the Briton has lost the locker room respect she had previously built up.

Kim Clijsters took aim at those who act as though they have "made it", meanwhile, though the four-time major winner did not mention Raducanu by name when making those comments.

Raducanu defended herself from the "unfair" accusations and Kyrgios has now questioned why former players have felt the need to take aim at the youngster.

"What’s with old retired players giving their opinion on our stars now?" he posted on Twitter, referencing a video uploaded by Andy Roddick on how players can curtail their anger.

"I love A-rod and I agree we all need to chill with the rackets and all that, but geezus.

"I read an article about a past female player talking about Radacanu, no offence, but she is a far, far bigger name already."

Naomi Osaka moved into the fourth round at the Miami Open without even taking the court on Saturday, getting a walkover victory as Karolina Muchova withdrew.

The former world number one claimed straights sets victories coming into Saturday and had her run eased even further, with Muchova citing abdominal injury after almost five hours on court in her opening two matches.

Muchova has been sidelined due to the injury for the last seven months, missing the US Open in 2021 as well as the Australian Open this year.

"I'm sad that I cannot put up a battle against Naomi today." Muchova tweeted. "After a long break from tennis, two tough matches in [a] row have been a lot for my body and I need longer to recover."

While Lucia Bronzetti also won in a walkover, Osaka will face Alison Riske, who defeated fellow unseeded American Ann Li 6-2 3-6 6-3.

In her third match since losing to Ash Barty in the Australian Open final, Danielle Collins defeated Vera Zvonareva 6-1 6-4 in 78 minutes.

The American world number 11 has had to deal with numerous niggling injuries this season, including a viral illness that left her with significant neck pain.

"There was obviously an emotional moment for me, the pain I'm dealing with right now with this injury," she said post-match.

"Just trying to work through that, I think is one of the hardest things we go through mentally when we're on court."

Fellow seeds Belinda Bencic and Ons Jabeur also made their way through to the fourth round, defeating Heather Watson and Kaia Kanepi respectively.

Both won with relative comfort, with Bencic winning 6-4 6-1, and Jabeur only dropping three games in the opening set to triumph 6-3 6-0.

Robert Lewandowski joined skiing greats Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin in saluting Iga Swiatek for earning the number one ranking in women's tennis for the first time.

At the age of 20, Swiatek guaranteed she will top the WTA list after the Miami Open by beating Viktorija Golubic 6-2 6-0 in her opening match at the event.

Swiatek will replace Ash Barty, whose shock retirement will see the Australian drop off the ranking ladder entirely when it is next published on April 4.

Since a shock French Open victory in October 2020, when the unseeded Swiatek stormed through the draw without dropping a set, the Polish youngster has continued to make a major impact.

She reached at least the fourth round of all the grand slams last year and was a semi-finalist at the 2022 Australian Open, before victory at WTA 1000 events in Doha and Indian Wells propelled her to number two in the rankings.

Now she will climb a step higher, and that news has proven popular with Swiatek's supporters, who include a number of illustrious names.

Fellow Polish sporting star Lewandowski, who is rewriting goalscoring records in Germany with Bayern Munich, sent his compatriot a message on Instagram that read simply: "Congratulations Iga. Well done."

Swiatek is a huge admirer of Americans Vonn and Shiffrin, who have both landed World Championship and Olympic gold medals on the slopes, and the respect is mutual.

Vonn told Swiatek her achievement was "So deserved!!", and Shiffrin posted: "Congrats Iga!!"

Former WTA number one Kim Clijsters, who was also 20 when she first hit the top spot in 2003, felt it was a natural next step for Swiatek to move up a rung and become the 28th top-ranked player in the tour's history. Swiatek will also be the first Pole to sit at the summit.

Clijsters said: "To see Iga grow as a tennis player, it has been so beautiful for me. There's a certain type of focus that is on tennis, and tennis only. There's a drive there that I admire very much – a drive that I recognise."

Belgian Clijsters, quoted on the WTA website, added: "She's had great results in the past, but she still wants to improve. We've seen others that kind of take a step back and say, 'Oh, I've won a slam now, I've made it. There's sponsors coming in and I get treated like a princess wherever I go'.

"Just because you’re the number one player and have won slams, doesn't mean you should treat other people differently. I feel like Ash Barty did that amazingly, and I think Iga has that focus, too."

Emma Raducanu has hit back "unfair" criticism over her mounting sponsorship deals following her early exit from the Miami Open.

The US Open champion was beaten by Katerina Siniakova in her first match in Miami this week after being given a bye into the second round.

Raducanu has only won four WTA Tour matches since she was sensationally crowned champion at Flushing Meadows as a qualifier in New York last September.

The 19-year-old has been in demand off the court and last week revealed she will be a brand ambassador for Porsche.

Briton Raducanu insists she is still driving high standards in training as she strives to build on her maiden grand slam triumph.

"Maybe you just see, on the news or on social media, me signing this or that deal and I feel like it’s quite misleading because I’m doing five, six hours a day [in training], I’m at the club for 12 hours a day," the 19-year-old told reporters.

"But I throw out one post in the car on the way to practice and all of a sudden it’s 'I don't focus on tennis'. I think that it is unfair, but it's something I have learned to deal with and become a bit more insensitive to the outside noise.

"At the end of the day, I feel like my days [with sponsors] are pretty limited. I'm not doing crazy days. I'm doing three, four days every quarter, so it's really not that much."

New world number one Iga Swiatek says taking the top rank is a "dream come true" and something she never strongly believed could happen.

Swiatek made history as the first Polish tennis player to reach the top ranking, taking over the mantle following Ashleigh Barty's shock decision to retire from the sport in midweek. She will officially become number one when the WTA rankings are updated on April 4.

The 20-year-old Pole, who won the 2020 French Open and made this year's Australian Open semi-finals, made the ascent to the summit after beating Viktorija Golubic 6-2 6-0 at the Miami Open on Friday.

"It's a dream come true, for sure," Swiatek told reporters. "It's that kind of thing that I wanted to happen someday, but I didn't really know that it's going to be possible for me.

"I never really imagined that moment, because truth to be told, I was working day by day and I was playing tennis well, but I never had that like that strong belief that it can actually happen, so it's even more surreal for me."

Swiatek has claimed WTA 1000 titles at Indian Wells and Doha this year, with her victory over Golubic extending her winning run to 12 matches.

She is the 28th woman to reach the summit in the WTA rankings, becoming the youngest player at the top since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010.

"I think it's going to be a bit different and maybe the hype is going to be a bit bigger, but I'm ready for that," she said.

"Honestly, it's like part of the job, so I always knew if I'm going to succeed, it's going to be there. I really appreciate people being really enthusiastic and really pumped up because I think sometimes I'm even playing for them."

Barty was quick to congratulate Swiatek on claiming the number one ranking, saying there is "no better person" than the Pole.

"There is no better person," Barty said in a message. "The way that she's brought this fresh, fearless energy onto the court has been incredible.

"I hope 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."

Former French Open champion Iga Swiatek has risen to world number one in the wake of Ashleigh Barty's retirement with a 6-2 6-0 win over Viktorija Golubic at the WTA Miami Open on Friday, sealing her ascent.

Swiatek, who won recent WTA 1000 events this year at Indian Wells and Doha, cruised to victory in one hour and 14 minutes over the Swiss.

The 20-year-old Pole, who won the French Open in 2020 and reached this year's Australian Open semi-finals, will officially become the top-ranked player when the rankings are updated on Monday April 4.

Barty's name will be removed from the rankings at her request having announced her shock retirement earlier this week at the age of 25, despite winning this year's Australian Open and last year's Wimbledon titles.

Swiatek is the 28th woman to reach the summit in the WTA rankings, becoming the youngest player at the top since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010. She will become Poland's first-ever number one in tennis history.

The Pole extended her winning streak to 12 matches against Golubic, taking her to a tour-high 21 wins this year, in a match where she saved eight of nine break points and took six of the nine she generated.

Swiatek's main immediate competition for the top rank was fifth seed Paula Badosa who got past Marie Bouzkova 7-5 7-5 in two hours and three minutes.

Badosa, who got the edge by grinding out games under pressure, will face Yulia Putintseva in the third round after she won 6-3 4-6 7-5 over Lesia Tsurenko.

Fourth seed Maria Sakkari was bundled out of contention following a shock 4-6 6-1 6-2 loss to Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Two-time major winner Petra Kvitova needed three sets to get past Clara Burel, winning 6-1 3-6 6-3 in one hour and 45 minutes.

Jessica Pegula beat Sloane Stephens 6-1 6-4, Cori Gauff got past Qiang Wang 7-5 6-4 and 20th seed Elise Mertens went down 7-5 2-6 6-1 to Linda Fruhvirtova.

Naomi Osaka is through to the third round of the Miami Open after beating former world number one Angelique Kerber in straight sets.

Osaka won the first three games of the match to jump out to an early lead, securing the set with a double-break before breaking early in the second to cruise to a 6-2 6-3 win.

The story of the match was Osaka's ease in winning points against Kerber's serve, winning 41 per cent (15/37) of Kerber's successful first serves, while the German could only win 11 per cent (3/27) in the same category.

Britain's top-ranked woman Emma Raducanu suffered another early exit, on the wrong end of Katerina Siniakova's comeback 3-6 6-4 7-5 win.

Simona Halep has withdrawn from the Miami Open after aggravating a thigh injury.

Former world number one Halep was due to face Australia's Daria Saville in the round of 64 on Thursday but felt unable to contest the match.

Halep said she sustained a thigh injury during her Indian Wells semi-final defeat to Iga Swiatek the previous week and it caused her discomfort again while training on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old two-time major winner expects to sit out the Charleston Open and will miss the start of the Billie Jean King Cup.

In a tweet posted on her official Twitter account, Halep wrote: "While I was practising in Miami yesterday I felt a sharp pain in my left leg.

"I had been struggling with the thigh since my semi-final in Indian Wells and hoped it would improve, but I went for an MRI last night and unfortunately it showed a tear.

"My body needs time to heal and as a result I will be out of competition for three weeks. This means I have had to make the super tough decision to pull out of Miami, Charleston and Fed Cup [Billie Jean King Cup].

"While it feels like really disappointing news to share, I am keeping the confidence from my great start to the year and am motivated to do everything to be ready for the clay-court season.

"Thanks for your continued support through the highs and lows."

Lucky loser Harmony Tan will take Halep's place in the draw.

 

Naomi Osaka looked relaxed and composed as she eased to a straight-sets win at the Miami Open, and offered a clue as to why when speaking to reporters afterwards.

The 24-year-old revealed she has started seeing a therapist after her recent loss at Indian Wells, where she suggested a heckler had affected her performance.

Osaka was left in tears as she struggled to deal with someone apparently shouting "Naomi, you suck!" during her second-round defeat to Veronika Kudermetova.

She also withdrew from Roland Garros last year, citing mental health concerns.

However, the three-time grand slam champion produced a strong display in her first round encounter in South Florida to beat Astra Sharma 6-3 6-4 on Wednesday.

"I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but I finally started talking to a therapist after Indian Wells. It only took like a year after French Open," she told reporters after her win.

"She kind of told me strategies and stuff. I realise how helpful it is. I'm glad that I have people around me that told me to, like, go in that direction.

"But, yeah, I was basically just remembering all the things that she told me to do, just to take deep breaths and reset myself when I need to."

The world number 77 revealed it was partly her sister, former professional player Mari Osaka, showing concern that led her to seek out therapy.

"I feel like I've been trying a lot of different things because I tend to internalize things, and I also want to do everything by myself," Osaka clarified, adding that her coach, Wim Fissette, had also encouraged her to do so.

Osaka believes she is now better prepared to handle a similar situation to Indian Wells should it arise, having realised it may have been the first time she has been heckled during a game.

"I think for me, the situation in Indian Wells, I've kind of thought back on it. I realise I've never been heckled. I've been booed, but not like a direct yell-out kind of thing. It kind of took me out of my element.

"I feel like I'm prepared for it now. I was kind of bracing myself before the match to just know that's a thing that could happen now. I think I just needed to change my mindset a little."

Ash Barty has not ruled out a return to professional tennis, saying "never say never" when asked if she could make a comeback in years to come.

The three-time grand slam winner announced her surprise retirement from the sport on Wednesday, less than two months after her home victory at the Australian Open.

At just 25, Barty is stepping away from the court at the peak of her career, and has teased the idea she could step into another sport entirely.

But speaking on Thursday, the reigning Wimbledon champion did not discount the possibility of returning to tennis down the line.

"You never say never," she said. "But it's a long way off at this stage."

Barty previously played cricket during a sabbatical between 2014 and 2016, and has been linked with a switch to golf in recent years too.

She shut down such suggestions as an immediate option, adding: "[I've] got to try and learn how to hit the middle of the club face before I can think of trying to get on the tour."

Elsewhere, Barty admitted that she would miss the competition of the WTA circuit, while praising fellow Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal for his staying power in the sport.

"I love the competition," she said. "That's what has driven me the most in my career, is that one-on-one competition and the thrill of the fight. I know that I'll miss it 100 per cent.

"But I'll be able to get the adrenaline in different ways. Those ways will remain to be seen. But I know that I've been so fortunate to have so many incredible moments on the court."

Unlike Nadal, Barty is bowing out of tennis early, and she respects the way the 35-year-old Spaniard, who also triumphed at Melbourne Park this year, has been able to stay at the top for the best part of two decades.

She said: "It's been an incredible career. His longevity in the sport has been undeniable. He's been amazing for the sport of tennis. For me as a fan to see him do that over such an extended period has been a pleasure."

Ash Barty insisted she would "never stop loving" tennis as the three-time grand slam winner kept everyone guessing about her next steps in life.

The 25-year-old announced a shock retirement on Wednesday, less than two months after triumphing at the Australian Open.

Barty hinted she would look to find a new role in sport, possibly in a playing capacity, and said she and boyfriend Garry Kissick had set a wedding date, but left it at that.

Speaking at a news conference in Brisbane, Barty said she had intended to reveal her retirement after playing for Australia in a Billie Jean Cup qualifying match in April.

However, reigning champions Russian Tennis Federation were recently excluded, due to the war in Ukraine, which meant the event was restructured and Australia did not need to play a qualifying tie. Barty consequently brought her announcement forward.

She said she had "given absolutely everything I could to this sport", and confirmed she has asked the WTA to remove her name from the world rankings the next time they are published.

Barty has retired as the world number one, with Iga Swiatek in pole position to succeed her. Results at the Miami Open, getting under way this week, will determine who tops the list when it is released on April 4.

"It's going to be an exciting time for the WTA Tour with the new number one," she said. "It will be a really cool period for them now."

Australian Barty, who is also the reigning Wimbledon champion, said of her career: "It's been a hell of a journey. I wouldn't change a thing and I certainly have no regrets."

She said winning the Australian Open in January had been "a brilliant way to finish", adding: "I'm excited for what's next, for my next chapter as Ash Barty the person, not Ash Barty the athlete."

Appearing alongside coach Craig Tyzzer, Barty said she had been practising on court even in the last fortnight.

"I hit as recently as 10 days ago," she said. "I'll forever be connected to tennis. I'll never stop loving the sport, I'll never stop hitting tennis balls. I just won't be doing it selfishly to progress my career, it'll be for different reasons."

Barty has played cricket at a high level before and is a keen golfer.

So could she look for a career in a sport other than tennis?

"I've seen some brilliant Photoshops as a jockey, lawn bowls," she said. "I love sport. I'm a sport nut, like a lot of Australians are; I'll be glued to it.

"I've always been an athlete in a sense of trying different things. But we will see how we go."

She is eager to share her tennis knowledge with youngsters in a coaching capacity, and appears to be relishing a quiet life away from the hustle of being a globe-trotting sports star.

Asked about her plans to marry Kissick, a trainee club golf professional, Barty said plans were in place, adding: "You have to wait and see."

US Open champion Emma Raducanu is not planning on replicating Ash Barty after the world number one retired at the age of 25.

Barty announced her retirement on Wednesday less than two months after winning the Australian Open, saying she has accomplished all she set out to in the sport.

There has since been an outpouring of respect and admiration for Barty, with the prevailing sentiment being that it is a great loss for tennis.

Raducanu burst onto the scene last year with a run to the fourth round at Wimbledon that was followed by a remarkable triumph at Flushing Meadows, making history at the age of 18 in becoming the first player to win a grand slam as a qualifier in the Open Era, doing so without dropping a set.

And she is planning on staying on the WTA Tour for many years to come.

"For me, I want to be in the game as long as possible," Raducanu said.

"I'm only 19. I've just come on tour, which is pretty young.

"I want to be in the game till I'm in my 30s. We'll see what happens and how long I can last, to be honest."

Reflecting on Barty's career, one in which she took a break from the sport in 2014, briefly playing professional cricket, before returning in 2016, Raducanu added: "If you get oversaturated with one thing, it's not healthy with anything you do.

"I feel like that just shows, if you take time off, you come back, you're hungry, you're ready. 

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