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Ashleigh Barty claims biggest career title with victory at Miami Open

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Ashleigh Barty has claimed the biggest singles title of her career by defeating Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (1), 6-3 to win her maiden Miami Open singles title.

In doing so, Barty consolidated her position as the first Australian woman since 2013 to reach the top 10 in the world rankings. She will rise to ninth when the new rankings are released on Monday.

After dominating the first-set tiebreak, Barty broke the big-serving Pliskova in a 12-minute game to open the second set.

From there on the fatigued Czech, whose semi-final win over Simona Halep finished after 1:00am local time earlier on Saturday due to rain delays, put up little resistance.

Barty pumped her fists when Pliskova sent a forehand long on match point to hand the 22-year-old the biggest win of her career, which includes a $US1.3 million ($1.83million) pay cheque.

Barty, the first Australian to win the Miami Open singles title, said the key to the match was extending rallies on the warm day in Southern Florida.

“It was important for me to try to make it physical,” she said during her on-court interview.

“Kaja has the ability to really hit you off the court and take it away from you, so I knew I had to have my running shoes on today to try and make as many balls as possible.”

Barty also dominated with her serve, firing 15 aces to win 32 of 37 first-serve points, with Pliskova breaking just once.

“I tried to make the most of it,” she said of playing an exhausted opponent.

“You don’t get these opportunities every single day and it was important for me to continue and try to do the right things and enjoy the moment as well.”

Pliskova, who will rise to world number four on Monday, praised her conqueror.

“I’ll make it quick because I’m very tired and it was a long two weeks,” the 27-year-old said.

“Congrats to Ashleigh. She played incredible all week, all the matches were close and especially today I thought she came up with some good tennis.”

Barty’s tennis resurgence has been a remarkable story after the 2011 junior Wimbledon champion took a break from the game to play cricket for the Brisbane Heat in 2014.

Last year, Barty won the women’s doubles title in Miami with CoCo Vandeweghe — with whom she would later win the 2018 US Open women’s doubles title — but in claiming the singles title Barty has now elevated herself into the upper echelon of women’s tennis.

After claiming her maiden grand slam doubles title last season, Barty has enjoyed a stellar start to the year, losing just three matches for an overall 18-3 record.

Barty became the fifth different Miami Open women’s champion in the past five years, and the 14th different WTA title winner in 2019.

The Queenslander became the 33rd different player to win a title in as many ATP and WTA tournaments this year.

Barty joins fellow Queenslander Samantha Stosur as only the second Australian in the past decade to reach the top 10.

Lleyton Hewitt and Alicia Molik are the only other Australians in the past 15 years to crack the top 10 in the respective men’s and women’s rankings.

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