Barty justifies top spot, Hurkacz Masters in Miami

World No.1 Ash Barty defended her Miami Open title. Hubert Hurkacz burst through to make history.

©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

The Miami Open served up a sizzling set of matches across the fortnight.

Ana Konjuh was the feel-good story, Maria Sakkari carved out some truly epic contests, Bianca Andreescu was producing Box Office tennis and Jannik Sinner continued to amaze.

However, once the ticker tape cannons had fired, just like 2019, Ash Barty departed the Hard Rock Stadium as champion and Hubert Hurkacz crossed into uncharted territory as the first Polish ATP Masters 1000 winner.

Barty deserving top spot


It felt like the Queenslander was still shaking off some rust at the start of the season having spent a year out of competition.

Barty seamlessly took on the world’s best but suffered a heart-wrenching Australian Open quarter-final loss to Karolina Muchova (from a set and break up), before an opening defeat to Danielle Collins at the Adelaide International.

Also, the eventual Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka was threatening to usurp Barty at the peak. The world No.1 had other ideas.

The 24-year-old kept “chipping away,” and was duly rewarded in Miami, leading 6-3, 4-0 against Andreescu in the final, before the Canadian retired with an ankle injury.

"I never have to prove anything to anyone. I know all the work that I do with my team behind the scenes,” stated the Australian defiantly, now 14-2 this season after four events.

"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. 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 for us, and to be able to build on that now since the restart for us has been great.”

Ashleigh Barty fist pumping in Melbourne 2020©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

It was a “carefree” fortnight having survived match point against Kristina Kucova in the second round. From there the Australian ousted major winners Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka, navigating past a trio of Top 10 talent in Aryna Sabalenka, Elina Svitolina and Andreescu.

The 24-year-old, the sixth woman to defend the Miami Open, appeared more and more comfortable with every bout, assembling cunning point construction and serving brilliantly (43 aces, building to a tour-leading 106 in 2021).

The 2019 Miami triumph propelled Barty to a majestic campaign, including a maiden major at Roland-Garros.

“Without a doubt, I'm excited for the clay season,” Barty told WTA Insider. “It's not always going to turn out every single time. Clay court tennis is brutal.

“I feel comfortable and trust that I know that I can play on clay, that I can trust my physicality, that I can trust my game.”

Hurkacz captures his chance to join the elite


Over on the men’s side the amicable, warm natured, trick shot sorcerer Hurkacz blasted through the Miami field for his first ever Masters 1000 trophy.

The 24-year-old has a robust all-court game but a fortnight of insane retrieval skills and sling-shot serving catapulted the Pole to glory.

The 7-6(4), 6-4 final victory over close friend Sinner (rising to No.23) has earned Hurkacz a career-high ranking at No.16.

“I played some of the best tennis I've ever played,” said Hurkacz. “I was solid throughout the whole tournament, and I was able to get through each round, was even more pumped for the next round. I think that's something special for me.

“My tennis is getting better. We work hard with my coach (Craig Boynton) and I’m super happy that it happened here. We still need to improve a couple of things and just try to get better each day.”

Hubert Hurkacz, vainqueur surprise à Miami.©FFT / Corinne Dubreuil

 The extent of the Pole’s development was evident at 2-6, 0-2 down to second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals. Some sensational passes and somehow, he prevailed 6-4 in the decider.

Fourth seed Andrey Rublev was then swatted aside in straight sets in the last four. It was efficient and incredibly composed from a player who frequently trains Tampa way.

Earlier this season Hurkacz was hailed champion at Delray Beach, meaning he’s 10-0 in Florida in 2021 and the first ATP player to win two titles so far this campaign. 

“I had a big belief in myself from the beginning of the season,” continued Hurkacz. “Winning the tournament like this gives you extra motivation and self-confidence that, okay, you're able to do it.”

The new world No.16 took inspiration from his compatriot and RG 20 champion Iga Swiatek.

“I was super proud of Iga. What she has done there in French Open was amazing,” Hurkacz added. “I think that gave the belief for us: for me, myself, and the younger players in Poland that it's possible to win those big titles.

 “Hopefully with my game, I can also inspire some people in Poland and hopefully they enjoyed it there. I'm super, super proud to be Polish, and I'm thankful for all the support that I get.”