Ashleigh Barty is all of 5 feet and 5 inches tall. In an era of height and power in the women’s game like never before, she stands out by not standing tall — physically, that is. Emotionally, when the moment calls for it, she stands above them all.
“I’m so proud of myself and my team for trusting the process and enjoying the journey,” a beaming Barty said after her semifinal victory over No. 22 Anett Kontaveit, 6-3, 6-3. “I think we have had some amazing opportunities on the court to do some pretty special things.”
At 22, Barty is going through to the final of the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itaú. To get there, she has had to endure a lot over her relatively long career for someone her age. There has been bitter disappointment in big matches, whispers of discontent among Australian fans who long for greatness out of the young star, and fatigue with the sport she loves — so much so that she stepped away from it for two years.
Since she’s been back, Barty has been on a crusade — a symphonic rise that crescendoed for the first time Thursday night as she out-smashed her heavy-hitting opponent to advance to the biggest final of her career, her first at the Premier Mandatory level.
“It took a little bit of time to get used to [the conditions],” Barty explained, referring to the weather, “and accepting the fact that I couldn’t quite play the way that I wanted to.”
Rain plagued the day at Hard Rock Stadium, but with Barty’s decisive win, it is hard to imagine she would want to play any other way that how she did. While Kontaveit took the early lead — breaking Barty in the opening game — the first rain delay stopped her momentum at 2-0. In the first return to play, Barty broke back and leveled at 2-all.
After more suspensions of play, the match resumed in full around 6:30PM ET. From that moment on, it was all Barty all day. Not only did she rely on her usual game of outworking her opponent from line to line, she also overpowered the ferocious Estonian opposite her — pounding out 13 winners to Kontaveit’s 11.
“I was able to come out of the rain delays and kind of get on the front foot pretty early,” Barty told the press. “I did the best with what I had and was able to get out of some tight service games at crucial times and get a bit of a roll on.”
That roll was undoubtedly aided by Kontaveit, who was let down by her own game, coming undone and hacking up 33 unforced errors in both frames. It was an insurmountable total for the 23-year-old, and Barty graciously accepted each one by refusing to go for broke unless she knew she could land it.
She landed a lot of them, enough to break Kontaveit five times and seal the victory just shy of the 80 minute mark. In the final, she will face either No. 2 seed Simona Halep or No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova.
“A tough one both ways,” Barty admitted, but she put the emphasis on what she could control on her side of the net. “I think either way I need to go out there and try and play my brand of tennis, which is probably the most important thing for either matchup.”
With the stopping and starting due to rain, the late match in the quarters, and extra time on court due to playing doubles as well, Barty was asked how her body was holding up.
“Good as gold,” the ever-chipper Aussie quipped.
Rest up, Ash. You’ll be going for gold on Saturday in the Women’s Singles Final of the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itaú.
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