Takeaway Miami Open: A Surprise Champion, Vaccine Debate, and an Imminent Battle

Hubert Hurkacz won the biggest title of his career on Sunday when the Miami Open 2021 came to an end after two weeks of surprises, blockbuster showdowns and statement victories.

When the fast-rising Hurkacz benefited from the absence of some of the game’s biggest names Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to win his first ATP Masters 1000 event, Ashleigh Barty promoted her reign on the women’s side after a dominant run in a star studded field, leaving no doubt as to why she is the top ranked player in the world.

Are you missing anything from the action? We understand With March Madness, the start of baseball season, the LPGA’s first major, and everything else going on on the sports calendar, it’s understandable if you couldn’t see all (or some) of the tournament.

Here’s everything you need to know as we head to the sand from the last hard court event of the spring season.

Barty in the USA

Barty didn’t need any Jalen Suggs-style exploits to end their victory Bianca Andreescu and earn their second straight time in Miami, instead take control of the opening game and never look back. At the first career meeting between the two versatile young stars, Barty dominated with her blistered serve and forehand, taking a 6-3, 2-0 lead before Andreescu fell while chasing a ball and twisting her right ankle. She continued to play, but after losing the next two games and being in visible agony, she withdrew in tears.

While it was a disappointing way to end the game, it almost cemented the legitimacy of Barty’s place on the leaderboard. Since the return of tennis in August 2020, there has been a lot of criticism whether her place at number 1 was in good faith as she signed off from the restart and stayed in Australia. Since returning to the tour in January, she has won two titles (the first at the Yarra Valley Classic) and a quarter-finals at the Australian Open.

As the defending champion in Miami, Barty would have lost points if she hadn’t won, and Naomi Osaka could possibly have overtaken them at the event, but a determined Barty left nothing to chance. After a 50-hour nightmare from Brisbane to Miami, the 24-year-old stood in front of a match point at the opening game Kristina Kucova, but she struggled in a spectacular way – beating a trio of top 20 players Elina Svitolina, Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka on the way to the final.

She was determined when asked after the game if the title warranted her placement.

“I don’t have to prove anything to anyone,” said Barty. “I know all the work I do behind the scenes with my team. I know there has been a lot of talk about the leaderboard, but I didn’t play at all last year and didn’t improve any of my points. Yes, I didn’t fall, but I did didn’t improve any, I didn’t play any at all.

“There have been girls who have had the chance to improve theirs. I felt like I really deserved my place at the top of the rankings. 2019 has been amazing, incredible for us and, you know, able to Build on it now that the restart has been great for us, but in my eyes we’re getting out of here and doing the best we can no matter what anyone says. “

Barty may not have played much of the 2020 season, but she’s taking full advantage of the upcoming calendar and is expected to compete in Charleston, South Carolina. Stuttgart, Germany; Madrid and Rome before the French Open. As a proven winner on clay, the Roland Garros champion from 2019 has the chance to strengthen her influence on first place.

Bibi is back!

The final didn’t go as she’d hoped, but it was still a triumphant run for Andreescu in Miami. The 20-year-old Canadian only played in her third event since she returned to the competition removed from the tour after 15 months and had compiled an impressive string of highly competitive victories over quality opponents, including Maria Sakkari, Garbine Muguruza and Amanda Anisimova.

While her talent and potential are undeniable, Andreescu may have become better known lately for her health problems. Andreescu suffered a number of injuries after her incredible 2019 season of winning the US Open, Indian Wells and the Canadian Open and finishing in the top five.

Playing in her first final since the US Open, she made resigning from the ankle sprain even more devastating, but she stated the decision was to keep the injury from worsening.

“Nobody wants to finish a tournament, especially in the final,” she said after the game. “But things do happen and I want to look ahead in my career. I’m only 20 years old. I’m not trying to take risks right now. I did it a few years ago and I didn’t want to do that too.” again mistake.

“That’s why I’m proud of myself, because I’m very resilient. It cost me a lot today.”

Andreescu shouldn’t be playing in Charleston or Stuttgart before the injury and is expected to play in Madrid in late April (or possibly in Canada’s clash with Serbia in the Billie Jean King Cup earlier this month). After improving her ranking from 9th to 6th in the tournament, she seemed more than optimistic about her time in Miami and her future.

“It was a great tournament for me, I got through really tough games. My body seemed to be good to this day,” she said. “I’m super grateful. So this is my first tournament back, one of my first tournaments in a long time, and all I can say is that I’m super grateful.”

Just like 1-2-3

With the absence of many of the sport’s greatest stars, including Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Dominic ThiemMuch of the conversation that led to the Miami Open revolved around who could step up and seize the opportunity in their absence.

Many believed it would be Daniil Medvedev. The 25-year-old was the first player outside of the “Big Four” to be among the top two in the rankings since 2005. For the first time in his career, he was the top seed in an ATP Masters 1000 event had the perfect chance to promote its status as a the Seeing players from the younger generation.

But he lost in the quarterfinals.

So also the seed No. 2, Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Alexander Zverev, the No. 3 seed and finalist of the 2020 US Open, lost in his opening game.

Yes it was a disappointing getaway for the favorites. Tsitsipas, who lost to eventual champion Hurkacz, was asked about their collective early exits and “everyone is having trouble here” at his press conference, but made little explanation and instead just expressed his frustration.

“Nothing to say,” he said. “I didn’t have any problems. I felt pretty good today.

“I [thought] I would have done a lot better this week, but it didn’t happen. Great for Hurkacz who did what he had to do to beat me but I feel like there was a missed opportunity that shouldn’t have happened today. Definitely not. It should have been my way. It should have been my victory. “

The good news for the De facto Three is that they have another chance at a Masters title next week in Monte Carlo. The not so good news? Djokovic and Nadal are both on the list of participants.

The King of Florida

If there had been a Miami Open bracket filled out by the crowds, likely more people would have predicted UCLA or Arizona in the men’s and women’s final than the two men who competed in Sunday’s final.

Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner – who entered the game with a combined ranking of 68 – were the last two standing. It was the first Masters final for both players, and it was ultimately 24-year-old Hurkacz who managed to keep his nerves in check and won the biggest title of his with a 7-6 (4), 6-4 win Career pick up.

After winning just one career title before the new season, Hurkacz started the year with a win at Delray Beach and is now 10-0 in Florida in 2021, which he attributes to the time he spent in the state last year. He beat two top 10 opponents (Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev) for the first time in the same tournament and will improve to a new career high of 16th place on Monday.

“I played [some] From the best tennis I’ve ever played, “said Hurkacz.” I was solid throughout the tournament and got through every round. I was even more excited about the next round. I think this is special to me. “

While Sinner ran away in second, the 19-year-old continued his rapid ascent in just his third Masters event. He was praised on the net by a drugged man Alexander Bublik after their quarterfinal match.

“You are not human, man,” said Bublik. “You are 15 years old and you play like that? Good job.”

Sinner will improve to 22nd place on Monday – also a career high. But he didn’t go into it after the game and instead focused solely on what’s next.

“Now back to work and now it’s clay season,” he said. “So I don’t want to waste any time today. I think I can learn a lot of things. Then there will be another tournament next week. I have to be ready.”

The first week at the Miami Open was full of great games, but it was Pospisil who got the fans talking really early. During his first round loss to Mackenzie McDonald, the Canadian started with the number 65 in one explosive tirade about the ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi The referee Arnaud Gabas after his second blow cost him the first set due to a point penalty.

Pospisil, co-founder of the Professional Tennis Players Association with Novak Djokovic, later apologized on Twitter For his outbreak, however, he said that it was the result of a failed meeting between players and ATP executives the night before that had made him “deeply insecure”.

While many of the specific details of the meeting remain unknown, several players, including Djokovic, used social media to defend Pospisil and emphasize the need for player votes in decision-making.

Much of the PTPA agenda has been unclear to the public since it was announced in advance of the US Open, but the group is intended to serve as a union-like body, much like other leagues, and is supported by many male players. As the relationships between the group and the ATP seem increasingly controversial, this could become a bigger problem this season.

Naomi Osaka’s series ends

After winning the previous two hard court majors and having a chance to take on the # 1, all eyes were on Naomi Osaka as the Miami Open kicked off. And with a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 16 seeds Elise Mertens In the round of 16, it looked like an Osaka-Barty final was on the right track.

But it shouldn’t be. Against Sakkari in the Quarter, Osaka was topped with a bagel in the opening set – which shocked the tennis world – and lost 6-4 in the second set. Their winning streak in 23 games lasted just over an hour and their return to the top flight was interrupted.

Osaka later said the question of the possible shaking of the rankings after their match against Mertens may have added pressure to which they simply weren’t equipped at the moment.

“It’s hard to say but I think the last time I was on this pitch I wasn’t really thinking about rankings at all, but someone asked me that question so I started thinking about it a lot.” Said Osaka. “So maybe involuntarily, that put pressure on me. But I have the feeling that even if it were, I could rise above it. You know, I’ll be asked different questions in the future anyway, so this is definitely something that should be.” don’t bother me as much as it did. “

Having had limited success on clay throughout her career and having never made the third round at Roland Garros, Osaka likely won’t have to worry about such issues in the next part of the WTA schedule, but that could make her more dangerous than never before.

The vaccine debate

After players including Svitolina and Rublev expressed their reluctance to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during the tournament, the WTA and ATP released statements encouraging their athletes to get the shot.

“The WTA believes in everyone and will encourage them to get vaccinated,” said the organization’s statement. “This will help protect the person who received the vaccine, those who were not, and allow our world to return to a place of normalcy that everyone wants.”

While neither the WTA nor the ATP require players to be vaccinated, the ATP has updated their virus protocols to provide benefits to those who choose to do so. Vaccinated players are no longer considered close contacts with people who test positive and are released from quarantine on arrival at tournaments while waiting for test results.

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