Ashleigh Barty’s return to tennis after a brief spell playing professional cricket, has brought its just rewards following her defeat of Karolina Pliskova for the Miami Open title which also heralds her break into the world’s top ten.
I feel like when I play my best, I'm good enough to match it with the very best in the world Ashleigh Barty
The 22-year-old Aussie fought back from a break down in the opening set, to eventually dominate the fifth seeded Czech 7-6(1) 6-3 to claim her first WTA Premier Mandatory level title and the biggest singles one of her career.
Barty is also the 14th tournament winner of this year’s season to date of 14 WTA events, the first time that that has occurred!
Barty, a junior Wimbledon champion at age 15, will rise from 11th to number nine in the world rankings when they are released on Monday and become the first Australian woman since Sam Stosur in June 2013 to crack the top 10.
“It feels like it’s a long time ago now since I took the break and since I came back,” said Barty, who also reached the Miami doubles semi-finals with Victoria Azarenka.
“It’s been a few years now, but I certainly feel like I’m a very different person. I feel like I’m a more complete player, I’m a better player.
“I was an average cricketer and I’m becoming a better tennis player.
“I feel like when I play my best, I’m good enough to match it with the very best in the world.”
Barty, seeded 12, hit 15 aces and 41 winners compared to 22 by her opponent.
“I had to keep it physical, make as many balls as possible and keep my running shoes on,” Barty continued.
Pliskova will also see her ranking rise to 4 despite her loss in the final.
“She played well and I was super tired,” said the lanky Czech. “The conditions were different to the night matches I played. For sure I could play better but she went for it in the tie-break.
“The first set was key for the match and one I should have won. It was tough to fight in the second.”
The 27-year-old Czech , who beat Barty 6-4 6-4 in the round of 16 at last year’s US Open, came into the final with 31 aces to her name, the most delivered in the women’s draw during the tournament.
“She served great,” admitted Pliskova who defeated Simona Halep in the semi-finals and denied the Romanian the chance to reclaim the world number one ranking.
Barty fell behind early in the match on a double-fault and she continued to make errors as she tried to repair the damage in the next game.
But the Aussie did regain her focus to settle down and it wasn’t long before she broke back and force a tiebreak.
There she took control moving ahead to 5-1, taking the set when Pliskova handed it to her with another error.
“It’s been an amazing fortnight of tennis and it’s pretty cool to have played a good match on such a big stage.
“It was always going to be a match of small opportunities so getting the first set was massive.
“There were zero expectations coming into this tournament, I just saw it as an opportunity to get better every day, but I have grabbed my chance with both hands and I am proud of myself,” a delighted Barty said.