Barty defends top status with Miami title

MIAMI • Ashleigh Barty insisted on Saturday that she is a worthy world No. 1 after defeating Bianca Andreescu to retain her Miami Open crown.

The Australian served notice of her determination to be a force this season with a 6-3, 4-0 victory as her Canadian opponent retired with a foot injury.

Barty - who had already been assured of holding on to her No. 1 ranking before Saturday's final - has faced sniping from some players over her continued presence at the top of the standings.

The 24-year-old has benefited from a tweak in the way rankings are calculated, which takes into account the disruption caused by last year's pandemic shutdown.

This has led to critics suggesting the system is skewed, considering Japan's Naomi Osaka, the world No. 2, has won two of the past three Grand Slams.

However, Barty shrugged off the criticism following her Miami win, rejecting a suggestion that her latest title "proved" she deserved her No. 1 status.

"I never have to prove anything to anyone," she said. "I know all the work that I do with my team behind the scenes.

"I know there has been a lot of talk about the ranking, but I didn't play at all last year and I didn't improve any of my points whatsoever.

"Yes, I didn't drop, but I didn't improve any. I didn't play any at all. There were girls who had the chance to improve theirs, so I felt like I thoroughly deserve my spot at the top of the rankings."

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty hitting a backhand en route to retaining her Miami Open title. Naomi Osaka has won two of the last three Grand Slams, sparking talk that the Japanese star should be top of the rankings.
World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty hitting a backhand en route to retaining her Miami Open title. Naomi Osaka has won two of the last three Grand Slams, sparking talk that the Japanese star should be top of the rankings. PHOTO: REUTERS

Barty, the 2019 French Open champion, has held the No. 1 ranking since September of that year, despite skipping the rescheduled US and French Opens last year to remain in Australia.

"The year we had in 2019 was incredible, incredible for us, and, you know, to be able to build on that now since the restart for us has been great," she said. "We come out here and do the best that we can regardless of what anyone is saying. So I never feel like I have to prove anything to anyone."

On those who believe four-time Major winner Osaka should be ahead of her, Barty added: "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That's absolutely fine. I can't control what anyone else thinks or says...

"It doesn't ever really get to me. I mean, it's just what people say and I can't change their opinion, so it doesn't stress me out at all."

She is now looking forward to a crowded schedule. She will play the WTA event in Charleston this week as part of preparations for the European clay-court swing, where she will play in Madrid, Stuttgart and Rome.

She will then aim to regain her French Open title at Roland Garros should the Grand Slam tournament take place.

"In 2019, throughout each week that I played, I felt like I got better and better on the clay and obviously grew in confidence and grew in experience," she said. "If it turns out we have a great clay-court season, that's fantastic, and if we don't, then it's not the end of the world."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2021, with the headline 'Barty defends top status with Miami title'. Subscribe