Miami, March 31 (IANS) Australia’s Ashleigh Barty capped off the best week and a half of her career by rolling past Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (7-1), 6-3 to win the Miami Open.
The 11th-ranked Barty who earlier in the week had assured herself a spot in the top 10 showed she deserved that position with her phenomenal play in the final, reports Efe news.
The 22-year-old Australian was playing in her first championship match of a WTA Premier mandatory event. Her nerves were apparent when she fell behind 3-1 in the early going.
But Barty got herself into gear in the sixth game, showing off her wide range of shots from the baseline, to make it 3-3. That set ended up in a tiebreaker, which proved to be the key turning point in the match.
Barty gave nothing away in the “breaker,” using her slice backhand to perfection and wrapping up the set when a backhand return by her seventh-ranked opponent sailed over the baseline.
The Australian then kicked her service game into a higher gear in the second set, winning 16 of the 18 service points against a big-hitting opponent who appeared to be growing more tired as the match wore on.
Barty also remained solid on return, grabbing a service break in the opening game of the second set to seize full control of the contest.
She then won the final game of the match in style, hitting winners with her backhand slice and forehand to get to 0-40 against Pliskova’s serve. She clinched the biggest singles title of her career when a forehand by the Czech went over the baseline.
Although Barty’s serving stats — including 15 aces and an 86 per cent winning percentage on first-serve points — were eye popping, she said later her commitment to playing strong defence also was key to the victory.
“I think it was important for me to continue to try and make it physical. I knew that (Pliskova) has the ability to really hit you off the court and take it away from you. Thus, I knew I had to have my running shoes on today. I was just trying to make as many balls as possible,” she said in an on-court, post-match interview.
Barty who beat two other top-10 players — eighth-ranked Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens and Czech world No. 2 Petra Kvitova — en route to the final will climb to a career-high ranking of No. 9 when the new hierarchy is released on Monday.
Pliskova, a former world No. 1, will move up from No. 7 to No. 4.
The Miami Open is one of four WTA Premier mandatory events on the women’s tennis calendar, which rank only below the four Grand Slam tournaments and the season-ending WTA Finals in terms of ranking points.