MIAMI, FL, USA - Ashleigh Barty played a match to remember at the Miami Open, unleashing a fearless display of excellent tennis to dispatch No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova, 7-6(1), 6-3 and win the biggest title of her young career at the Hard Rock Stadium.
"It's been an amazing fortnight of tennis. It really has," she said to open her post-win press conference. "I think it's pretty cool to have played such a good match today, obviously in a big situation and a big match. Certainly proud of myself and happy the way that my team and I have been able to get through these two weeks."
Though the Aussie had lost her previous two matches against Pliskova, Barty flummoxed the three-time WTA Ace Leader with a flawless mix of power and finesse, securing victory after 99 minutes on Stadium Court.
"It was going to be a match of small opportunities. I think I was able to claw my way back into the first set and take an opportunity when I got it in the tie-break.
"I think it was important for me to try and get that first set. I think that first set today was going to be massive. I was able to get a bit of a roll on in the second early and keep the foot down."
Pliskova was fresh off a rare win over nemesis and fellow former World No.1 Simona Halep in the semifinals, and enjoyed a confident start to Saturday's final, breaking first and edging ahead 3-1 with a first ace.
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The No.12 seed soon settled with big serves of her own, leveling the set and forcing a tie-break. The turning point came in the ensuing sudden death as the Aussie pulled off a perfect drop shot, riding the momentum into a one-set lead.
"I think it's a pity or unlucky that I didn't hold the serve a little bit longer because I was up a break, and she quite gave me a lot of mistakes in the beginning, which I think she didn't after," Pliskova explained after the match.
"And I was tired, super tired. And also, the conditions completely different than what I have played the night matches. So of course I was not playing the best tennis. I was not serving the best.
"I think she played well, so it's not that I would play completely bad. But on the other hand, for sure, I could play better."
Playing on the biggest stage of her career, the 22-year-old only grew in confidence in the second set, stepping in with some powerful forehands to break first and drop just two points on her own serve.
"I think particularly on the women's side, I think the level has evened out a lot, and the depth has grown over the last few years," Barty said. "I think anyone in the draw has a legitimate chance of winning the tournament. I think you have to continue to put yourself in those situations and try and make the most of it."
Striking a stunning 15 aces in the match, Barty put the pressure on Pliskova and broke serve once more to clinch the title off of one last unforced error from the Czech.
Already assured of a Top 10 debut on Monday, Barty continues the streak of 14 different WTA title winners to start the season - the longest streak in tour history.
"I feel like we have jumped over a few hurdles this week. We have been able to, you know, make the most of some situations that I put myself in.
"I think that's the beauty of this sport is that there is always another opportunity to become a better player, to try and make the most of what you can. That's what we have been able to do over this last fortnight, to beat some really quality players. And to back it up each day is probably the most pleasing."