Going into the biggest final of her career, Australia’s Ash Barty had already locked down a top-ten ranking.
The Australian wanted more as she duelled with a Czech Republic player for the second straight time in a final after losing to Petra Kvitova at the Sydney International in January.
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Photo: Tournament Director James Blake, Ashleigh Barty of Australia and Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic pose for photographers at the trophy ceremony during the women’s final of the Miami Open Presented by Itau at Hard Rock Stadium March 30, 2019 in Miami Gardens, Florida.(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Karolina Pliskova, a former world no. 1 and the current world no. 7 was also in search of her biggest tournament win and had convincingly ended Simona Halep’s run to the no. 1 spot.
The last time the pair met it was at the 2018 US Open. On that occasion, Pliskova walked away with a 6-4, 6-4 victory. The head-to-head was 2-2 going into the match with the players alternating with wins. This time it was Barty’s turn…
The world no. 11 opened the serving and held comfortably. Pliskova also held to level at 1-1.
In the third game of the match Pliskova had the first look at a break point after Barty dumped a backhand slice into the net for 15-40.
A good deep first serve saw Pliskova hit the return into the net, the next point Pliskova had a swing at a second serve. The 26-year-old returned up the centre of the court to Barty’s backhand and an unforced error followed from Barty as she hit into the net.
In the semifinal against Anett Kontaveit Barty came from behind in both sets, so she was not in new territory to be a break down.
Early in this match it was Pliskova’s serve that was more solid as she consolidated the break with an Ace to move to 3-1.
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Photo: Ashleigh Barty of Australia celebrates at match point against Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic in the final during day thirteen of the Miami Open tennis on March 30, 2019 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Barty started the next game with an Ace of her own, then a wide first serve to Pliskova’s backhand forced an error to jump out to 30-0. Pliskova nailed a backhand winner on the next point before Barty then hit long for 30-30.
A 179 km/h serve saw Pliskova again reaching for the ball and her return sailed long. The game was Barty’s when Pliskova slapped at a forehand that sailed long.
Pliskova was attacking Barty’s backhand side on the opening point of the next game, when Barty was able to get across to the forehand corner she hit deep and saw Pliskova miss the next shot over the baseline.
Barty won a first serve point to jump to 15-30, and when the Czech player had a return fired back at her body she failed to get into position and she sliced what was to be a topspin shot and it went wide and short.
With two break points, Barty needed just one as she worked Pliskova out of position and then hit a backhand winner to get back on serve.
An Ace and a great backhand winner helped Barty win the next game, although she was taken to deuce after two backhand slice unforced errors.
Ace no. 4 got Barty to Ad, then another first serve saw Barty on the attack in the next point and she ended it with a smash.
Barty pushed Pliskova to deuce in the next game and had an opening down the line to earn a break point, she however hit long. Another unforced error from Barty saw games at 4-4.
Games went with serve to 6-6 to setup a tie break. Over their four previous matches, the pair had played five tie breaks, Barty having won three.
The 22-year-old Australian started aggressively to earn the first point in the breaker. The next point was a long rally that ended with Barty’s shot hitting the tape and falling back on her side.
Barty hit a brilliant backhand slice drop shot winner to get the first mini-break. A forehand winner saw Barty move to 3-1 then an Ace out wide saw Barty in command at 4-1.
A deep backhand slice saw Pliskova rush a shot that she hit into the net for Barty to hold a 5-1 lead. Pliskova handed Barty a point when she hit a forehand wide. A backhand service return that went long saw Barty claim the first set after a perfect tie-breaker.
During the break between sets Conchita Martinez, coach of Pliskova visited to talk. She emphasised that things were really close. She also said to the toss-up higher as her elbow was a bit low on the serve.
In the opening game of the second set Pliskova hit a shot at 30-30 that was called out then the linesman corrected his call. After Barty called for a review it was shown to have just caught the line.
Barty won the next point to push Pliskova to deuce. A forehand winner that Barty hit from the centre of the baseline to the backhand corner earned a break point. Some big hitting from the Czech player forced an error from Barty.
Pliskova then hit her fourth unforced error of the second set to again hand Barty a break point. Barty let that slip after she did not hit through a forehand, it fell short into the net.
On the fourth deuce point of the game Barty challenged a no-call on a serve she thought was wide, she was correct. Pliskova then double-faulted for the third break point in a game that was now running close to nine minutes.
Barty displayed her net skills to hit a volley winner for deuce no. 6. A winner from Barty’s forehand that clipped the line presented Barty with break point no. 4. A big forehand from Pliskova saved another break point.
This game was taking a lot out of Pliskova. She hit a shot into the base of the net for break point no. 5. Barty floated a backhand slice return deep and Pliskova hit wide to give Barty the break.
Barty was moving well and was looking in control of the match, despite it being early in the second set. The Australian consolidated the break to lead 2-0.
A wicked slice backhand down the line forced Pliskova to hit long at 30-30 for another Barty break point. A good wide second serve, then an Ace helped Pliskova move to Ad. What was called as another Ace was successfully challenged by Barty to go to a second serve.
Barty won the point after a short shot sent Pliskova to the net, Barty pass with ease to get to duece. A tired looking shot from Pliskova saw her hit long to present Barty with a break point. With her back against the wall Pliskova hit a backhand winner.
Pliskova was looking tired, her answer was to go for winners. She hit another backhand winner for Ad. Barty jumped on the next serve to hit a winner and keep the game alive. It was another game heading for the 10-minute mark.
Barty had the ball on a string. Pliskova gave her an opening and Barty found the open court with a forehand winner. An Ace gave her Ad.
Barty was relentless and won the next point for deuce, but a shot that clipped the net and fell on her side saw Pliskova at game point. A winner from the Czech saw her escape the game after more than 10 minutes.
Pliskova went to her chair at the change of ends and slumped down like she had just run a marathon. She was looking gone physically. Martinez again visited to try to lift Pliskova.
Barty held to love after back-to-back Aces. The pressure was again on Pliskova.
Pliskova made a good move to the net on the opening point but her volley technique let her down and the ball sailed well wide.
A lazy shot that was hit into the net saw Pliskova down 0-30. Some first serves in play helped the no. 5 seed get to 30-30. Pliskova again went to the net, this time seeing Barty send an attempted chip lob sail long. A rare missed forehand from Barty got the game for Pliskova.
After the first point of the next game, Pliskova was bent over and leaning on her racquet. An Ace on the next point didn’t help. A first serve that was well returned by Pliskova was smacked away for a winner by Barty, then another Ace and Barty was looking good for the title.
What could Pliskova do to turn things around? An Ace helped. Pliskova found some big first serves and held to love.
Barty opened the eighth game with an Ace, but it was challenged and shown to have caught just one millimeter of the service line.
Video highlights from the match
The Australian just rolled on, jumping out to 40-0. Pliskova had some extra heat on her shots but a forehand that went just wide gave Barty the game.
Pliskova was looking to shorten the points and went to the net on the first point. It was an easy pass for Barty.
Barty hit the sideline on the backhand side then sliced down the other sideline and Pliskova was not even close to getting to the ball. A forehand winner that again Pliskova just stood and watched gave Barty three championship points.
It took just one. Barty was the champion in Miami after Pliskova hit long. The final score was 7-6(1), 6-3.
Barty looked in complete control in this match, her movement was excellent, she fired down 15 Aces to six and hit a total of 41 winners to Pliskova’s 22 and Barty only had 22 unforced errors to 30 from her opponent.
In total Barty won 84 points to 66 and she served at 63%, winning 86% of first serve points. The match lasted one hour and 39 minutes.
“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,” Barty said.
“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 said 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.”
With the win Barty moves to no. 9 on the rankings, Pliskova moves to no. 4.
After match press conference videos
Next on the radar for Ash Barty would be helping Australia into the Fed Cup final. Australia faces Belarus in Brisbane in a few weeks.