Ash Barty pockets second consecutive Miami title after Andreescu retires

Australia’s Ash Barty wins her second successive Miami Open; Biana Andreescu retires with the score at 6-3, 4-0.

Ash Barty pockets second consecutive Miami title after Andreescu retires

Ash Barty pushed a forehand winner into the open court as her opponent, Bianca Andreescu, laid on her back in the far corner, injured yet again. With that, the Miami Open final was decided.

Andreescu limped through 11 more points before she retired, crying, shaking her head and trailing 6-3, 4-0.

The No. 1-ranked Barty won her second successive Miami title on Saturday, and the Australian was already in control of the match when Andreescu turned her right foot while hitting a forehand and sprawled to the hard court. Barty hit one more shot to win the point, and play continued. But during the ensuing changeover, a trainer taped Andreescu’s foot, and after another game the injury-plagued Canadian reluctantly called it quits.

“I really do feel for Bianca,” Barty said. “She has had such a rough trot with injuries in the past.”

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Andreescu was again tearful at the start of her post-match news conference, when she explained that her trainer convinced her to retire rather than risk further injury. “I didn't want to stop,” she said. “I trusted him, and I knew it was the best decision.”

The tournament was the first in the United States for the 20-year-old Andreescu since she won the 2019 US Open. She sat out 2020 because of injuries and the coronavirus pandemic and now faces another possible layoff. “I'm going to see what's up with my foot, and start visualising the healing process if it's something bad,” Andreescu said.

On Sunday, 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner will try to become the youngest men’s champion in tournament history when he plays No. 26-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland. Each is seeking the biggest title of his career.

‘Privileged’

Barty made her own breakthrough by winning the 2019 Miami championship. The tournament was cancelled last year at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Five other women have earned consecutive Miami titles: Stefanie Graf, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario, Venus Williams and Serena Williams.

“I shouldn’t belong with that group,” Barty said with a smile. “I haven't earned the right to be on a list with those champions. They’re genuine champions and legends, and I feel very privileged to be mentioned in that sentence.”

Bianca Andreescu gets up after falling during the final. - AP

 

The match between Barty and Andreescu was their first, and a potential friendly rivalry looms. Barty dominated from the start of the final with her strong serve and all-court game. “She doesn’t play like a lot of the players on tour,” Andreescu said. “She likes to mix it up, like me. That’s not fun to play against. I guess I’m getting a taste of my own medicine.”

Barty was playing outside of Australia for the first time since February 2020, and she arrived in Miami after a trip that took 45 hours because of two cancelled flights. “I said to my coach when we got here, it can only get better from here,” she said.

It did. Barty was one point from defeat in her opening match against Kristina Kucova, but she gained momentum from there and will keep her No. 1 ranking next week. With the pandemic limiting travel, the 2019 French Open champion heads into the clay court season expecting to remain away from home for months.

“It’s a great start for us,” Barty said. “I'm looking forward to what will hopefully be a big season for us, and hopefully we can play some really good tennis.”

Because the pandemic reduced tournament revenue and severely limited attendance, the champion received USD 300,110, compared with the USD 1.35 million Barty won in 2019. Only 750 fans were allowed on the grounds per session.

Barty hits out at critics

"I never have to prove anything to anyone," Barty told reporters.

"I know there has been a lot of talk about the ranking, but I didn't play at all last year and I didn't improve any of my points whatsoever. Yes, I didn't drop but I didn't improve any. I didn't play any at all.

"There were girls who had the chance to improve theirs, so I felt like I thoroughly deserve my spot at the top of the rankings. The year we had in 2019 was incredible," added Barty, who opted not to travel out of Australia for 12 months from March 2020.

Barty clinched the Miami Open in 2019 before capturing the French Open and WTA Finals. She started off 2020 by triumphing at the Adelaide International before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the Tour to shut down for five months.

"I can't control what anyone else thinks or what anyone else says," said Barty, who was playing in her first tournament abroad since February 2020.

"Everyone needs to understand that it's a pandemic. It's probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing for a lot of us to go through, so it's a bit of a difficult situation."

Inputs from Reuters