If there were any questions surrounding Ashleigh Barty’s readiness to play outside of Australia, or softening the No. 1 ranking next to her name, the 2019 Roland Garros champion shut them down with resounding authority at the Miami Open.
"I never have to prove anything to anyone. I know all the work that I do with my team behind the scene," Barty asserted in her press conference Sunday.
If there were any questions surrounding Bianca Andreescu's health and stamina, they had been shut down heading into Saturday’s final with Barty—until a second-set fall forced the ongoing topic to suddenly reemerge.
Barty, the 2019 Roland Garros champion, led Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, 6-3, 4-0, when the 20-year-old Canadian retired from the championship match with an ankle injury. Down 0-2, 15-0 in the second set, Andreescu appeared to roll her right ankle when she moved to her right to hit a forehand. She crashed to the ground just behind the baseline, then received treatment on the changeover, before deciding she could no longer continue a game later.
"No one wants to end a tournament retiring, especially in the finals. But things happen, and I want to look ahead in my career," Andreescu told press afterwards. "I'm only 20. I'm not trying to risk anything right now. I already have a couple years ago, and I didn't want to make that same mistake again."
Added Barty, "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. Obviously it's disappointing with the way that it ended, but without a doubt, that will be the first of many for us."
Earlier, despite seeing a 3-1, 40-0 first-set lead suddenly turn into Andreescu getting back on serve, Barty kept her composure. For the second time on a break point, the Australian punished her opponent’s inability to finish at the net to regain her break-of-serve advantage. Barty’s willingness to be the aggressor in this first-time meeting was evident, and successfully paid off. In the first set, she hit 70 percent of her backhands with topspin compared to her previous matches, where she averaged 69 percent via the slice.
From 30-0 up at the start of the second, Andreescu dropped serve, ending the game with a double fault. Barty moved ahead by a double break thanks in part to her lob (effective throughout the contest from both sides of the net) as well as Andreescu questioning her mobility following the injury scare.
The final point of the day was an ace up the tee, but the repercussions of this contest remain in play. Andreescu previously played four consecutive three-setters after winning her opener in straights.
"To me, it was a great tournament. I really fought through very tough matches," Andreescu said. "My body seemed to be good up until today. I think it was just, like, a freak accident. I twisted my foot. But other than that, I'm super grateful."
Barty's tournament began with a 50-hour journey brought on by travel woes. She faced a match point against Kristina Kucova in the second round, but now stands with her second trophy in four events contested this season.
"I did say to my coach when we finally got here, Well, it can only get better from here," said Barty. "The fact now we have had a really successful couple of weeks I felt like with each match I have been playing better and better, which is ultimately what we are after.
"To have the title at the end is a bonus, and to be able to defend my title the first time in my career is really, really special, too."