"I had to have my running shoes on today...it was important for me to make a run for it," Ashleigh Barty had said after winning the Women's singles final at the Miami Open opposite Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-3.
She had adjusted her white FILA cap and gave a smile of relief at the end of the match. This was the biggest win of her career and from the moment she walked on court as her name was being announced to begin the match, she appeared calm and self-assured.
But it was prior to the final, the semis she had successfully dismantled Anett Kontaveit's game. The Estonian player isn't an easy push-over; ranked no. 19, she has won only one WTA singles title but her craft was structured on the ITF circuit with 11 singles and 5 doubles titles.
Barty felt confident with Kontaveit and said after winning 6-3, 6-3 that "I'm striking the ball well and I'm going out there and have some fun." The fun was indeed on Barty's side and it appeared that the entire final had her name on it from nearly beginning to end.
Barty didn't earn the first game of the match, she took it. She performed many textbook strategies that didn't have to overwhelm her opponent Karolina Pliskova with power but with grace and finesse. The Australian would do a deep angled shot on Pliskova by moving her around and then ripped one down-the-line for the winning point.
The score was levelled at 3-all. Pliskova had a tough night, before the final with her hands full with Romania's Simona Halep. Enough said. Long rallies and tight angles, Pliskova handled it well all night and won 7-5, 6-1.
The fight was just the beginning for Pliskova in winning over Halep because it might have left her overtired and not fully rejuvenated enough after a few days to continue the one last fight with Ashleigh Barty in the final.
As the duel stretched on Barty had the next break and led Pliskova 4-3. It seemed like the Czech had hopes of keeping up with Barty and she did as the set went to a tiebreak. The energy it took to level the games had worn out Pliskova and the steamrolling powers she had fizzled.
Barty detected this surge had lessened and she started her strategies of technique that Pliskova had no answers. "You can do this," Pliskova's coach Conchita Martinez had said to her during the break with some words of encouragement.
But it was the Czech's body movements and attitude that told most of the tale. She had lost faith in her ability to execute at the right time in the match. "What is making you so uncomfortable?" Martinez had worriedly asked of Pliskova.
But no answer was uttered. It wasn't long that Barty had the touch and feel on the racket to create spins and slices, Pliskova was at a lost for returning. It was obvious that Pliskova was mentally and physically drained and only gathered 3 games in the second set.
Barty had blasted 15 aces and too many slices and winning spins to count. She was on a mission and she accomplished it with style and grace to become the first women's singles winner on the new Hard Rock Stadium winning 7-6, 6-3.
The after-match commentary by Bethanie Mattek-Sands, a doubles specialist had added about Ashleigh Barty that "She had some dirty drop shots." Pliskova gave kudos to Barty as well as her team. It was Barty in return who smiled rather modestly and said about her team that "I wouldn't be half the player without you."
The Australian's team will continue with her in the next tournament and if Barty can keep up her consistency, she'll be difficult again to defeat. The Miami Open had closed for the women's singles and there was a round of applause as Barty and Pliskova had lifted their sterling glass trophies in happiness and thanks for a wonderful tournament having been played.