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Ash Barty caps 44-hour commute with Miami Open tennis title

MIAMI, April 3 (UPI) — Ash Barty was rewarded for a 44-hour commute from Australia to Miami when she claimed the 2021 Miami Open title Saturday in Miami Gardens, Fla. She also retained her No. 1 world ranking despite facing elite competition.

Barty beat Bianca Andreescu 6-3 in the first set and was up 4-0 in the second set when her foe retired from the match due to an injury Saturday at Grandstand Stadium.

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“That’s never the way you want to end a match, particularly in a final,” Barty told reporters Saturday in a Zoom video conference.

“I really feel for her. She has had such a rough trot with injuries, but I think that will be the first of many battles for us.”

Barty had four aces, two double faults and saved one of two break points in the 62-minute match. Andreescu had two aces, two double faults and saved four of eight break points.

Andreescu double faulted and later tripped and fell in the second set, which led to her injury and walkover. She said she twisted her foot during the “freak accident.”

“No one wants to end a tournament retiring in the finals,” Andreescu told reporters Saturday in a Zoom video conference. “I have to look ahead in my carer. I’m only in my 20s and I’m not trying to risk anything right now.

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“I’m proud of myself for that because I’m super resilient. For me to do that today took a lot. I think it was the best decision.”

The walkover resulted in consecutive Miami Open titles for Barty, who also won the tournament in 2019. The 2020 Miami Open was canceled due to COVID-19.

Coronavirus travel restrictions also impacted Barty at this year’s tournament. The Australia native started her journey to Miami on March 19, with a flight from Brisbane to Sydney. She then flew from Sydney to Los Angeles. Her final flight, from Los Angeles, landed in Miami on March 20.

Barty’s flight from Sydney to Los Angeles also was delayed for 10 hours and then canceled, which led to additional travel disruptions.

But it was the world’s top player who issued the disruptions once she arrived in South Florida.

“It feels like a long time ago,” Barty said of her chaotic journey to the tournament. “It felt like a long trip. I told my coach on the phone that it could only get better. We have had a really successful couple of weeks. I feel like with each match we got better and better.

“To be able to have the title at the end is a bonus. To be able to defend my title is really special.”

Barty won the first three games of the first set of Saturday’s win. Andreescu then answered with two consecutive game victories, but Barty won the sixth and seventh games to go ahead 5-2 in the set. Andreescu claimed the eighth game. Barty then won the ninth game to win the first set.

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The Australian was dominant in the second set and appeared destined for a straight-sets victory. Andreescu then made that triumph a reality with her emotional retirement from the match.

Barty is the first No. 1 seed to win the Miami Open since Serena Williams accomplished that feat in 2015. Williams, who recently had oral surgery, withdrew from this year’s tournament.

Barty started her Miami Open title defense with a win over Kristina Kucova on March 25 in the Round of 64. She then bounced Jelena Ostapenka two days later in straight sets. Barty claimed victories over Victoria Azarekna and Aryna Sabalenka to reach the semifinal.

She then beat Elina Svitolina in straight sets Thursday to reach the final.

Andreescu reached the final with wins over Tereza Martincova, Amanda Anisimova, Garbine Muguruza, Sara Sorribes Tormo and Maria Sakkari. The 2019 U.S. Open champion edged Sakkari in three sets Thursday in a women’s singles semifinal.

World No. 2 Naomi Osaka, who won two of the last three Grand Slam titles, had a chance to steal Barty’s spot in the WTA rankings if she had won the tournament and Barty lost in the semifinals.

Sakkari upset Osaka on Wednesday in the quarterfinals.

Jannik Sinner battles Hubert Hurkacz in the 2021 Miami Open men’s singles final at 1 p.m. EDT Sunday in Miami Gardens. Barty said she plans to play in the Volvo Car Open from Monday through April 11 in Charleston, S.C.

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