The Insider Wrap is a weekly recap of everything you need to know from the week that was. This week, WTA Insider looks back at the Miami Open, which turned out to be a statement tournament for two of the tour's biggest stars: Ashleigh Barty and Bianca Andreescu.
Performance of the Week: Ashleigh Barty
The World No.1 overcame a 50-hour trek from Brisbane to Miami, a match point against her in her opening match against Kristina Kucova, two major champions in Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka, and a trio to dangerous Top 10 players in Aryna Sabalenka, Elina Svitolina and Bianca Andreescu, to capture her 10th title and second of the season.
That's one way to quiet the whispers. Here's why Barty's Miami win may be the most important title of her career so far.
Ash Barty is the 1st top seed to win #MiamiOpen since Serena Williams in 2015.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) April 3, 2021
She is the 6th woman to successfully defend @MiamiOpen.
Graf (87-88, 94-96)
Sanchez Vicario (92-93)
V. Williams (98-99)
S. Williams (2002-04, 07-08, 13-15)
After being sidelined during the pandemic last season, Barty is now 14-2 in 2021. She has played four events this season and won two of them, including the first successful title defense of her career in Miami. With her three Top 10 wins, Barty has now won 14 of her past 17 matches against Top 10 opposition, including her past six.
It was the perfect start to Barty's long road trip that could last until the end of the season. There were a lot of intangible variables swirling around Barty in Miami, and the Queenslander answered them all with a shrug and a smile.
Andreescu: "I've watched her play on TV. Playing against her is something completely different. She doesn't play like a lot of the players on tour. She likes to mix it up, like me.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) April 3, 2021
"That's not fun to play against (smiling). I guess I'm getting a little taste of my own medicine."
Surprise of the Week: Ana Konjuh
The most heartwarming run of the tournament belonged to 23-year-old former Junior No.1 Ana Konjuh. On the comeback after enduring four elbow surgeries, the former World No.20 made good on her main-draw wildcard, scoring back-to-back wins over No.18 seed Madison Keys and Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek to make the Round of 16. Konjuh created some magic in her win over Swiatek, firing 40 winners over three sets to overpower the talented Pole.
Tennis is a cruel sport to its stars. With a non-stop calendar jumping from city to city offering frequent opportunities for new stars and talents to be anointed, the sport has a built-in "out of sight, out of mind" mentality.
So leave it to Andreescu to remind everyone what a nearly unstoppable force she can be in just her third tournament back. Few players on tour hold the spotlight like Andreescu, whose string of dramatic three-set wins over Amanda Anisimova, Muguruza, Sara Sorribes Tormo and Maria Sakkari lit up the night sessions in Miami.
Whether it was her jaw-dropping hot shot against Muguruza or her grueling, lung-busting rallies against Sorribes Tormo, Andreescu adapted her game to every opponent and situation and found a way to win. Her ankle roll in the final was bad luck - and Barty had already built a 6-3, 2-0 lead by then - but much like her runs in Indian Wells and Toronto, she drew us in with her problem-solving skills.
Is Bianca back? "A little bit," Andreescu said, when posed the question. "One step closer."
Given the way she was playing since the tour resumed from the shutdown last summer, Maria Sakkari was due for a big result. The Greek star rose to a new career-high No.19 on Monday after becoming the first player to defeat Naomi Osaka in more than a year, snapping the World No.2's 23-match winning streak with a decisive 6-0, 6-4 win to make her first WTA 1000 semifinal.
But perhaps even more impressive than her win over Osaka or her outstanding effort against Andreescu in the semifinals, which saw her narrowly lose in a deciding tiebreak, Sakkari's courageous match-point saving effort to defeat Jessica Pegula in the Round of 16 will leave a lasting mark. Facing six match points, Sakkari stepped up and saved five of them with clean, aggressive winners, and the sixth with a big kick-serve that earned an errant return.
Sara Sorribes Tormo
The only chance you had of beating Sorribes Tormo in the month of March was by carrying a Canadian passport. The indefatigable Spaniard went 11-2 in North America in March, winning her first title in Guadalajara (d. Bouchard), made the semifinals in Monterrey (l. Fernandez), and put together a breakout tournament in Miami to make the quarterfinals (l. Andreescu). En route to her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal, Sorribes Tormo casually saved two match points in the first round against Bernarda Pera, then knocked off three prime Top 30 players in Australian Open finalist Jennifer Brady, No.23 Elena Rybakina, and No.30 Ons Jabeur.
Sorribes Tormo will rise to a career-high No.48 on Monday. But perhaps more important than rankings and points, Sorribes Tormo earned huge respect from her opponents and fans in Miami.
Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara
The Japanese duo vaulted to the top of the Porsche Race to Shenzhen Grid by capturing the biggest title of their careers and their tour-leading third title of the season in Miami, defeating Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani in Sunday's final. It has been an outstanding season for Aoyama and Shibahara, who have their fingers crossed for the Tokyo Olympics.
Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber
Upset of the tournament? Look no further than Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber, two self-professed doubles non-specialists, teaming up to oust Australian Open champions and top seeds Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka in the first round, 7-5, 7-5. Unfortunately, the effort took its toll. Halep withdrew from the tournament with a shoulder injury before her next singles match.
Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani
The Miami finalists would probably prefer not to see Aoyama/Shibahara across the net for a while. Carter and Stefani have had and outstanding start to the season, making two finals in Abu Dhabi and Miami, and losing to the Japanese team each time. Carter and Stefani also made the final in Adelaide, narrowly losing to Guarachi/Krawczyk in a match tiebreak. They go into the clay season without a title, but their strong results put them at No.4 on the Porsche Race to Shenzhen. They also hit a new career-high ranking, with Stefani at No.26 and Carter at No.27.
0: Points Alize Cornet won on her own serve in her first set vs. Petra Kvitova in the second round. Kvitova won 24 of 27 points to win the first set in 16 minutes.
2: Players who won a tournament after facing match point this season. No.1 Barty saved match point in the second round against Kristina Kucova in Miami. No.2 Naomi Osaka saved two match points in the Round of 16 against Garbiñe Muguruza at the Australian Open.
2: Spaniards atop the match-win leaderboard as the spring hardcourt season ends. Muguruza leads the tour with a 20-5 record, followed by Sara Sorribes Tormo with a 15-4 record.
4: Consecutive wins over Top 5 opponents for Sakkari: d. No.5 Bencic (2020 St. Petersburg), d. No.5 Svitolina (2020 Ostrava), d. No.4 Kenin (2021 Abu Dhabi), d. No.2 Osaka (2021 Miami).
4: Double bagel wins in Kerber's career. The former No.1 earned her first double-bagel victory since 2015, defeating Renata Zarazua, 6-0, 6-0 in the first round of Miami.
6: Match points saved by Sakkari in her fourth round against Jessica Pegula, the most match points saved en route to a win this season.
6: Consecutive finals win by Aoyama/Shibahara. Since losing their first team final at 2019 San Jose, the Japanese duo has not lost a championship match.
70: Weeks Barty has held the No.1 ranking. She will tie Caroline Wozniacki's 71 total weeks after Charleston. Only eight players have held the No.1 ranking for more than 71 weeks.
80: Percent of Andreescu's completed matches that have gone three sets in 2021.
106: Aces Barty has struck this season, which leads the tour. She has played four tournaments.
Pic of the Week:
Quote of the Week
"Sometimes I literally feel like I'm an octopus out there running side to side, I feel like I have eight legs. It's insane. Sometimes I don't even know how I get to some shots. But it's that fighting spirit I have always had in me, never giving up."
- Bianca Andreescu