Newly-minted World No 1 Iga Swiatek pulled off an historic feat by completing the Sunshine Double at the Miami Open presented by Itaú, where she emphatically dispatched Naomi Osaka, 6-4 6-0, in Saturday’s final, scooping up her 3rd successive WTA 1000 title in celebration of picking up Ash Barty’s mantle.
At the end, I felt relief. I was surprised that I could actually handle all these matches. I had many doubts during this tournament. It's pretty crazy for me. Iga Świątek
The Polish 20-year-old became only the 4th, and youngest, woman to win Indian Wells and Miami in the same year, following Steffi Graf, Kim Cljisters and Victoria Azarenka, in 37 years of the tournament’s history.
“These weeks were so intense, I didn’t really know if I would able to keep up with the streak that I have,” said Swiatek, who also became the first woman to win the opening 3 WTA 1000 tournaments in a season.
“It’s amazing for me, that I could show mental toughness, because my whole life, I thought, I could do more and sometimes I was losing and I didn’t even know why.
“This season I feel like everything clicked, so it’s great, and I am really happy.”
The Miami Open began with the shock news that World No 1 Barty was retiring from the pro tour with immediate effect, leaving Swiatek, ranked 2, poised to take the top spot if she could stay on track with her winning run of matches.
Two matches later, the young Pole had sufficient points to claim the ranking when Barty’s name is removed from the list on Monday.
Swiatek did not allow her new status to distract from the quest in hand, and powered her way past Coco Gauff, Petra Kvitova and Jessica Pegula into the final without the loss of a set and dropping just 22 games over the 10 sets she played.
She has now won 17 matches in a row, a winning run that includes those precious titles in Doha, Indian Wells and, now, Miami, while she is also almost 1,700 ranking points clear of her nearest rivals, Maria Sakkari and Barbora Krijcikova.
Swiatek’s opponent in the final, Osaka, had slipped down the rankings after losing the points she collected at the Australian Open in January, slumping into the 80s and coming into Miami at No 77 under threat of dropping out of the Top 100. Now she will now rise to 36.
The former World No 1 withdrew from the French Open last year after boycotting media duties in order to safeguard her mental health and, after that, she featured in just 3 tournaments, including the Olympic Games in Tokyo, before taking another break from the game.
Osaka returned at the Melbourne Summer Series in January, where she reached the semi-final before being forced to withdraw due to injury and, although she played at the Australian Open and Indian Wells, she only began to re-establish herself in Miami.
The Japanese arrived in Florida following a 2nd-round loss at Indian Wells, where she was reduced to tears after being heckled during the match, but she went into therapy, and found her mojo again as she charged through the draw, dropping just one set to Belinda Bencic in the semi-final, en route to the Miami championship match.
It was the 24-year old’s first final since winning the Australian Open in 2021, while Swiatek headed into her 6th career final on the back of 16 straight wins and, interestingly, the last player to do that was Osaka, who was on fire between Cincinnati in 2020 and last year’s Miami Open.
Their only previous meeting was in 2019, which ended with a straight sets win for Osaka over an 18-year-old Swiatek, a qualifier.
“Man idk what’s going on but I’m just so grateful right now,” Osaka posted on Twitter ahead of the final. “Cheers to the ups and downs of life for making me appreciate this moment even more. We’re back in a final, see you on Saturday,”
Osaka had been serving well throughout the tournament, and hit a tour-leading 18 aces in her semi-final win over Bencic, but Swiatek, a former French Open champion, is one of the finest returners in the women’s game, and she pressed her hard from the get-go in the final.
The Japanese No 1 did well to hold onto her serve in a tricky 10-minute opening game and, for a good portion of the first set, put up firm resistance.
There were 4 aces from Osaka, 7 deuces and some spirited play from both sides before the Japanese prevailed, but a determined Swiatek eventually proved a level too high for the 4-time Grand Slam champion and, once she broke for 3-2, Osaka began to look vulnerable.
On a searingly hot, windless day, Swiatek’s energy and resilience was obvious, while her ability to diffuse Osaka’s power gave her a distinct edge, and she rode out the tight first set without facing a break point, despite serving under 40%.
The former French Open champion raised her level in the second, breaking again right at the start, and that saw any lingering hopes for the Japanese melt under the Miami sun.
In fact, Swiatek broke Osaka 3 times to race out to a 5-0 lead, and never looked back as she sealed the 79-minute match on her first championship point when the Japanese sent a forehand wide.
It may have become a somewhat one-sided affair as Swiatek easily moved through the gears to land her 6th career title, but there were joyous scenes at the Hard Rock Stadium when the young Pole sealed the deal and broke into the widest of grins.
Osaka finished with 7 aces, but was broken 4 times in all, while Swiatek, playing with pleasing guile and subtlety, did not face a single break point.
Earlier in the tournament, Osaka was aggressive facing second serves, stepping well inside the baseline but it did not work against Swiatek, whose kick serve bounced up around Osaka’s shoulders even when she was 4 or 5 feet inside the baseline.
“Iga was quite different from all the players that I’ve played previously, so it was a bit hard to adjust to what she was doing,” Osaka told reporters later. “But, I think, hopefully, if I play her next time, it will be a much better match.
“I’m not as disappointed as I normally would be. Normally, I would be crying in the locker room or something, but now I’m kind of chill.
“I feel like I know what I want to do better, and I just want to go back and start training again to hopefully win a tournament next time.
“I just couldn’t really figure out what to do on her 2nd serve. I didn’t really know if I should go forward or go back…. But other than that, I thought it was kind of cool to see her movement up close.
“Yeah, all in all, it was a sad outcome but it was a fun day.”
At the trophy ceremony, Osaka said: “Firstly, I wanna dedicate this one to all the people who support me and my fans, I haven’t been in this position for a little minute.
“I know this isn’t the outcome you guys wanted, but I had a lot of fun, and I’ll work hard to have more opportunities like this again.
“I want to congratulate Iga. I was just thinking yesterday about when I had that dinner with you in Australia: watching that journey has been incredible.
“You’re a really incredible and amazing person, and I hope you keep going forward, congratulations.
“If I could be a little bit more selfish, I want to thank my team, they’re the ones that keep pushing me forward.
“They’re the rock that stays by my side. Just to be in a final again means a lot to me. Thank you, my guys.”
Swiatek was an equally gracious champion, responding: “I’m pretty glad that we could play this match. I think it’s the start of a great rivalry.
“You are really an inspiration, and the sport is better with you. So keep going.
“Honestly, when I was watching you winning the US Open in 2018, I wouldn’t have even thought I’d be playing against you in such an important match.”
The mutual respect, even fondness, between the two is obvious, and augurs well for their future rivalry.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Osaka told reporters later. “The last time I played her, it wasn’t like this at all. I definitely learned a lot.
“She is definitely worthy of her title as No 1. I’m going to learn a lot from her, and watching this match back again.”
Osaka told reporters that her short-term goal is to be seeded at Roland Garros in May, and that she is taking the clay season seriously this year.
“I think by next year or by the end of this year, I would love to be Top 10,” Osaka said. “By next year I would love to be the No 1.
“Oh! That’s a big statement. Erase that. Top 5. You know what? I’m going to set that goal. Top 1, yeah. No 1.
“It feels kind of good to chase something and, I think, that, maybe, that’s a feeling that I have been missing, like wanting to strive to do better.
“For me, it’s cool to see where the level of No 1 is, so I can find out if I can reach that.”
As she targets the clay season, Osaka will take the lessons she has learned from her loss to Swiatek, one of the premier clay-court players in the game.
As for Swiatek, she is now at a career-high winning 17 consecutive matches, including the last 9 in straight sets, and 26-3 for the year, as she heads into play on her favourite surface.
“It’s really exciting,” Swiatek said in press afterwards. “I’m being compared to the players who are really my idols when I was younger – I wouldn’t even dream of being in that position. So I’m really satisfied and proud of myself.”
Swiatek has solidified her rise to the World No 1 ranking without any remaining doubt.
“At the end, I felt relief,” Swiatek told reporters. “I was surprised that I could actually handle all these matches. I had many doubts during this tournament. It’s pretty crazy for me.”
After winning 17 matches and 3 tournaments in a row, the WTA Tour’s new No 1 player, understandably, is in need of a rest so the 20-year-old has withdrawn from the Credit One Charleston Open next week.
“I’m very sorry to withdraw from Charleston, but after a marathon of three tournaments where I played in the finals, I’ve got a harmless injury of my arm that I need to rest,” Swiatek said. “I hoped to start the clay season in Charleston there, but unfortunately, I need to wait to play this great tournament with big traditions.
“So hopefully, see you there in the future.”
Everyone is looking forward to that.