Barty Retains Miami Open Title By Retirement

Ashleigh Barty (photo: courtesy WTA video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, April 3, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

It wasn’t the way World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty wanted to win her second straight Miami Open presented by Itaú singles title, when World No. 9 Bianca Andreescu was forced to retire in the second set, a game after suffering a foot injury Saturday afternoon. However, injuries are a part of tennis – and it’s how Barty handled the moment afterward at the net consoling Andreescu with humility and grace that will be long remembered.

When the two Top 10 players squared off at Hard Rock Stadium on a mostly-cloudy and windy afternoon, in the third final of the WTA season between past Grand Slam champions, Barty was bidding to become the sixth woman to defend her Miami title. Meanwhile, the eighth seed Andreescu was playing a reigning World No. 1 for the first time in her brief but successful career.

Sadly, after 62 minutes, the title match ended abruptly with Andreescu’s injury retirement. Barty was ahead at the time 6-3, 4-0. During the third game of the second set, the 20-year-old Canadian took a bad spill and appeared to injure her right ankle or foot. She took a seven-minute medical time out during the changeover at the end of the game to get the affected foot and ankle taped up.

To her credit, a hobbling Andreescu returned for one game during which Barty hit her third ace and had an easy hold to go ahead 4-0. Soon, Andreescu looked toward her box, where her coach, trainer and parents were seated. Then, Andreescu began to break down in tears. She realized her body had failed her at the wrong time. Later, during her post-match virtual press conference, Andreescu admitted retiring was the right thing to do, and that she saved herself from further injury.

When they met at the net after the match was over, Barty consoled Andreescu, even made her smile. Later, during her post-match virtual press conference, Barty recalled for Tennis TourTalk what she said to Andreescu:

“I just said obviously I feel for her. I feel like she’s been through the ringer a bit with some of her injuries. I just said I hope she gets healthy quickly, I hope she heals well, and I’m sure this will be the very first of many matches for us.

“She’s a great player, and it was really nice to be able to share the court with her today in such a big match. Obviously it’s disappointing with the way that it ended, but without a doubt, that will be the first of many for us, and hopefully they are in big matches and big moments where it matters.”

Barty also stressed: “It’s never the way you ever want to finish a match, particularly in a final. I really do feel for Bianca. I think she’s had such a rough trot with injuries in the past. …

“I just hope from now on they are healthy and we can both stay out on and fight for everything that we can give. Obviously, I feel for her having to pull out today.”

As Andreescu described the conversation between her and Barty at the net for Tennis TourTalk: “She said, ‘It was great playing. I’m so sorry. I hope you get better, and I know we’re going to be seeing each other a lot on the other side of the net.’ Super sweet.”

Before the title match halted, Barty won 75 percent of her first-serve points and took the first set 6-3 in 36 minutes. The affable Aussie jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Andreescu held serve. Although the Canadian came back from 0-40 in the fifth game and broke Barty to get back on serve, Barty broke back in the ensuing game on her third break-point chance to surge ahead 4-2 and served out the set, winning it after Andreescu hit a forehand long that capped an eight-shot rally.

Barty finished the abbreviated final with five aces, 20 winners and 17 unforced errors. She converted four of eight break points and was broken just once by Andreescu. The Canadian hit two aces and finished with eight winners and 20 unforced errors. Barty outpointed Andreescu 52-34.

Entering the final on an 11-match winning streak in Miami going back to her 2019 title run, Barty saved a match point in her opening match of the Miami Open last week and from there to the title run, she played focused and determined tennis. Meanwhile, eight of Andreescu’s first 11 matches this season lasted three sets, including her last four in Miami before the final. Now, she owns a 33-2 record in North America since the start of the 2019 season. Before this year, her previous best finish at Miami was reaching the fourth round in 2019.

With back-to-back Miami titles, Barty became the sixth woman to defend the Miami Open crown and follows Steffi Graf (1987-88, 1994-96), Monica Seles (1990-91), Arantxa Sánchez Vicario (1992-93), Venus Williams (1998-99) and Serena Williams (2002-04, 2007-08, 2013-15).

Sinner or Hurkacz will be a first-time Masters 1000 champion

On Sunday, a first-time ATP Masters 1000 champion will be crowned as No. 21 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy faces No. 26 seed Hubert Hurkacz from Poland. Although they’ve teamed twice to play doubles this season, first in Melbourne and later in Dubai, this will be their first meeting in singles. Whomever wins will be the first from their respective country to garner the Miami Open title. The last player to win his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami was John Isner of the United States in 2018, the last year the tournament was played at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne.

At age 19, Sinner is the youngest ATP Masters 1000 finalist since Rafael Nadal won Madrid at age 19 in 2005. Overall, he’s the ninth-youngest ATP Masters 1000 finalist in series history dating back to 1990. Sinner is also the second youngest Miami Open finalist in tournament history, which goes back to 1985, surpassed only by 2005 runner-up Rafael Nadal, who was 18.

What will it take to win? According to Hurkacz, “Jannik, he hits the ball very hard from both of the sides. [I] have to try to stay aggressive and, yeah, like try to play my best tennis.”

Meanwhile, Sinner realizes he can’t take anything for granted. “I think it’s nice to play finals here in Miami, but, you know, as I say, it doesn’t mean anything, you know, that you are going to win other tournaments,” he said Friday after his semifinal win against Roberto Bautista Agut. “I mean, the road is long. I know it. My team knows that. Obviously, it can be a great week for me. It is a great week for me. But, you know, the work has to go on. Obviously, as I said, it’s nice but, you know, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Mektic/Pavic win Miami Open men’s doubles title

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia, won their fourth ATP Tour doubles title of the season with their 6-4, 6-4 Miami Open championship victory over Dan Evans and Neal Skupski, both from Great Britain, Saturday afternoon on the Grandstand. Mektic and Pavic outscored Evans and Skupski 62-46.

The title match lasted one hour and 16 minutes and it improved the Croatian duo’s win-loss record this season to 25-3. They are 4-1 in finals this year with titles won on the ATP 1000, 500 and 250 levels. They started 2021 winning Antalya, Turkey, then followed it up with another 250 title in Melbourne at the Murray River event and last month won at Rotterdam.

During their virtual press conference, Mektic, who previously teamed with Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands, was asked if he imagined how much success he and Pavic would have this early in the season. He said: “I have to be humble and say ‘no’, this is a dream come true, but I really did expect a great partnership and great results from the start. Yes, it’s been a great year so far, but this is, like I said, we are just two very great players that I felt from the beginning that it’s gonna work pretty fast and pretty well.”

Pavic was asked if it was like a leap of faith knowing he had something good going with Brazil’s Bruno Soares and risked it to do something better. He commented: “Yeah, I mean, obviously it was a good call, worth taking that risk, I guess. I mean, like Nikola said, we were both even with our ex-partners, you know, last year were always on the top of the ranking, you know winning tournaments. 

“We are both great players, so there was no reason to think that we wouldn’t play good, you know, together. Were we expecting maybe this good to start off? You know, maybe not. Maybe, we were expecting, you know, to take it a little bit, to get to know each other. We never played an official match before this year. Maybe we were not expecting that good of a result, but obviously it’s going good for us and I hope we can keep it going like this.”

Around the Hard Rock Stadium

Miami native Nehemie Celestin sang the National Anthem before the women’s final Saturday. The Rebellion recording artist is a four-time Showtime at the Apollo winner and has sung locally at Miami Heat (NBA) and Miami Dolphins (NFL) games.

By the numbers

Ashleigh Barty will remain WTA World No. 1 while Bianca Andreescu is projected to rise to World No. 6 when the WTA Rankings are updated on Monday.

Jannik Sinner is just the second Italian to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final, joining Fabio Fognini, who won the 2019 Monte-Carlo Masters in the only other appearance for an Italian in an ATP Masters 1000 final.

Hubert Hurkacz, who reached the final by earning wins over consecutive Top 10 opponents – No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in Thursday’s quarterfinals and No. 8 Andrey Rublev in Friday’s semifinals), is the second Pole to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final, joining Jerzy Janowicz, who was a finalist at Paris in 2012.

• The last time an ATP Masters 1000 final with both players ranked outside the Top 30 took place in 2003 at Paris, when No. 31 Tim Henman defeated No. 191 Andrey Pavel. Sinner is ranked No. 31 and Hurkacz is ranked No. 37. The last ATP Masters 1000 champion ranked outside the Top 30 occurred at Paris in 2005 when No. 50 Tomas Berdych defeated Ivan Ljubicic.

What they’re saying

No time for big celebrations as Ashleigh Barty now that she’s won the Miami Open. She’s off to Charleston, S.C. to start her clay-court season on the green clay at the WTA 500 Volvo Car Open, where she’s the No. 1 seed.

Hubert Hurkacz on the growth of Polish tennis: “I think it’s great for the country, [for] Poland to have Iga, I mean, Lukasz Kubot who has been winning Grand Slams, Australian Open and Wimbledon in doubles. Yeah, also like myself hopefully like we are inspiring kids and there are plenty of younger guys like Kamil Majchrzak, Kacper Zuk, and also like couple of guys playing doubles like Jan Zielinski, Szymon Walkow.So, those guys are, I mean, hopefully like pumped by the results that we are doing and they see that it’s possible like to be there, to be at those events and to play deep in them.”

What they’re sharing on social media