Naomi Osaka paid tribute to Iga Swiatek, the Miami Open fans and her own team as she lost in the final of the Miami Open on Saturday.
Osaka made a decent fist of the first set despite losing it 6-4, but could not resist the 20-year-old Pole as she battered her 6-0 in the second to claim victory, her third ranking tournament of the season.
The return to a final marks an important step for Osaka as she struggled to find peace with herself after stepping away from the sport in 2021.
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The four-time Grand Slam winner withdrew from the French Open after deciding she did not want to speak to the press as part of the event, a withdrawal which extended to the summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Speaking after the match in Miami, she said: “Firstly I wanna dedicate this one to all the people who support me and my fans, I haven’t been in this position for a little minute.
“I know this isn’t the outcome you guys wanted but I had a lot of fun and I’ll work hard to have more opportunities like this again.”
She also praised Swiatek, who will be confirmed as the new women’s No. 1 on Monday following the retirement of Ashleigh Barty.
“I want to congratulate Iga. I was just thinking yesterday about when I had that dinner with you in Australia: watching that journey has been incredible. You’re a really incredible and amazing person and I hope you keep going forward, congratulations.
“If I could be a little bit more selfish I want to thank my team, they're the ones that keep pushing me forward They’re the rock that stays by my side. Just to be in a final again means a lot to me. Thank you, my guys.”
Swiatek welcomed Osaka back to the sport at the highest level as she opened her victory speech.
“First of all I wanted to say I'm pretty glad we could play this match and it’s part of a great rivalry. You are really inspirational and this sport is better with you, so keep going,” she began.
“We are 1-1 now so many more matches to come.
“It’s a great event with the fans compared to last year, this tournament has so much energy.”
Much has been made of her 17 winning matches on the bounce, but she thanked the fans for getting her through the ordeal of Saturday’s final, saying: “You really guys, especially Poland fans, you really kept me going.”
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