Naomi Osaka tops Sharma to begin post-Barty era

Naomi Osaka tops Sharma to begin post- Barty era

Naomi Osaka kicked off the WTA’s post-Barty era with a win over Australia’s Astra Sharma at Miami Open while putting her Indian Wells troubles behind her.

The former World No.1 beat Sharma in straight sets with scores of 6-3, 6-4.

Miami Open is the first major tennis tournament since the current World No.1 Ash Barty announced her retirement from the sport. It was perhaps that reason why Naomi Osaka was greeted by cheers when she walked onto the court after being subjected to jeers by spectators in her second-round loss at Indian Wells not too long ago.

Flashing the level of play that vaulted her to No. 1 in the world not too long ago, Osaka had little trouble in beating Sharma. Osaka’s win was her 50th in WTA 1000 tournaments and sets up a second-round meeting with 13th seed Angelique Kerber.

With Barty’s retirement, the No.1 ranking in women’s tennis is up for grabs with Osaka and Indian Wells Champion Iga Siwatek the likeliest of the candidates.

Like Osaka, Kerber is another former world No. 1 who holds a 4-1 head-to-head record against Osaka.

Osaka improved to 7-2 this year, not counting a walkover loss at Melbourne in early January when she withdrew from an Australian Open warmup event with an abdominal injury.

She’s ranked No. 77 in the world after not participating in many events the last year. Among active players, the Japanese is the most recent to hold the No. 1 ranking. Barty supplanted her in the top spot on Sept. 9, 2019, and has held that ranking since.

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