World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty clinched her second Miami Open title in a row on Saturday as Bianca Andreescu was forced to retire due to injury while trailing 3-6, 0-4 in the final on Saturday.
This is Ashleigh Barty's second title of 2021; she also won the Yarra Valley Classic in February. But perhaps more importantly, Barty has proven to her detractors that she is a worthy candidate for the World No. 1 ranking.
The Australian echoed that sentiment herself during her press conference after the final. Barty claimed she has nothing to prove to anyone, and that the work she and her team have been doing speaks for itself.
The 24-year-old also pointed out that even though she didn’t play any tournament since the resumption of the tour last year, that also meant she couldn't add any ranking points to her tally.
"I never have to prove anything to anyone (about the No. 1 ranking)," Barty said. "I know all the work that I do with my team, behind the scenes. And I know, there's been a lot of talk about the ranking. But, you know, I didn't play it all last year. And I didn't improve any of my points whatsoever. And yes, I didn't drop but I didn't improve any, I didn't play any at all. And there were girls who had the chance to improve there. So I felt like I thoroughly deserve my spot at the top of the rankings."
Had Naomi Osaka clinched the title, Barty would have been required to necessarily make the final to safeguard her top spot. However, Osaka’s quarterfinal defeat to Maria Sakkari ensured that Barty kept her No. 1 ranking merely by making the semis.
With her 2021 Miami Open triumph, Ashleigh Barty has now won the tournament twice in a row. She had also won the previous edition of the event, back in 2019 (the tournament was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic).
In doing so, the Australian has joined a select group of legendary players to have won back-to-back titles in Miami - Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Venus Williams and Serena Williams.
On being informed of that fact, Ashleigh Barty asserted she hasn’t done enough to be categorized along with those great players. She did, however, acknowledge that it was a 'privilege' to be mentioned in the same breath as them.
"I feel like I shouldn't belong with that group," Barty said. "I feel like I haven't earned the right to be in a list of names with those champions. They're genuine champions of our sport, legends of our sport. And I feel very privileged to be mentioned in that sentence."
Never the way you want to finish a match: Ashleigh Barty
Ashleigh Barty expressed sympathy for Bianca Andreescu, who hurt herself early in the second set of the final. Andreescu ultimately had to concede the match through retirement, and in her presser Barty acknowledged how unfortunate the Canadian has been with injuries lately.
"It's never the way you ever want to finish a match, particularly in a final," Barty said. "And I really do feel for Bianca, I think she's had such a rough trot with injuries in the past."
Ashleigh Barty went on to commend Bianca Andreescu for her fighting spirit, and sounded confident that the two of them would play many more matches in the future.
"And I think that's going to be one of the first of many battles for us," Barty said. "I just hope that from now on, they're healthy. You know, and we can bust down the court and, and fight for everything that we can give. So obviously, I feel for her having to pull out."