Naomi Osaka has paid special tribute to Ash Barty having admitted she became emotional after finding out about her rival's shock retirement.
World No.1 Barty shocked the sporting world on Wednesday when she announced her sudden retirement from tennis.
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The tennis world reacted with shock considering Barty was in her prime at 25 years old and has occupied the World No.1 ranking for 114 consecutive weeks.
Tennis' biggest names, including Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and stars from other sports all paid tribute to Barty's classy exit from the game.
And one such big name to pay a special tribute to Barty was rival Osaka.
Osaka won her first match at Miami Open, after returning from the fan furore that surrounded her Indian Wells exit.
And the Japanese superstar said while she didn't know Barty well, the news of the Australian's sudden retirement had an impact on her.
"I feel, this morning when I saw the news of Barty retiring, it made me quite sad," Osaka said post-match.
"We're not really friends, more like work place acquaintances.
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) March 23, 2022
"But I really admired her for how hard she worked and just how nice she was to everyone."
Osaka finished with some kind words after admitting she wanted to take some inspiration from Barty's approach to the game when she walked onto the court in Miami.
"I kind of wanted to be more like her [this morning], and I wanted to feel how she probably feels now, that she left everything on the court and she has no regrets," Osaka added.
Naomi Osaka: I'm a bit sad that we couldn't play more matches like that. I wish I won my last match in Australia so we could have played that round of 16.
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) March 23, 2022
Barty admitted she wished she had played Barty more during their careers after a thriller in the WTA Finals a few years ago.
Serena Williams pays tribute to Ash Barty
Williams was one superstar to send Barty her best wishes after the shock decision to retire.
The 23-time grand slam champion summed up the mood in the tennis world, tweeting: "I can’t lie I was sad to read your decision but also happy for your new chapter.
"Always your fan close up and afar. Sending all my love."
Iga Swiatek, who will take over as World No.1, admitted she was reduced to tears by the bombshell news.
Swiatek, who is about to find herself as World No.1 at 20 years old, will be Poland's first player to ever reach the top of the men's or women's rankings.
Her tears came partly because she was so sad about Barty calling it a day when she'd looked forward to playing her for years to come, but also at the crazy thought of suddenly being thrust into a new exalted position.
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