The sun has set on the Miami Open.
Ashleigh Barty and Hubert Hurkacz were crowned champions in Sunshine State after the two-week tournament and attentions now turn to the clay season in Europe.
But what did we learn from the action in Miami and which players stood out?
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Barty shines in stacked field
Fifth seed. Seventh seed. Eighth seed. Fourteenth seed.
Nobody can say Barty did not earn the title in Miami.
After saving a match point against world No 149 Kristina Kucova in her opening match, Barty showed her array of qualities to beat some of the best players in the world and defend the title she won in 2019. The victory also ensured she will hold on to the No 1 ranking for at least another five weeks.
She said during the tournament that being at the top of the ranking did not determine her happiness, but she must be delighted with the way she played over the fortnight, having opted to travel to her first tournament outside of Australia since 2020.
Her longevity as world No 1 might owe something to the frozen rankings last year, but Barty served a reminder in Miami that she certainly belongs there. She battled to wins over Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka before producing her best performance of the week to beat Elina Svitolina in the semi-finals. She was then in full control of the final at 6-3, 4-0 ahead before Bianca Andreescu retired with injury.
Naomi Osaka might have been the player to watch coming into Miami, having not previously lost a match for a year, but Barty leaves Florida as the player to beat.
Andreescu is a welcome return to the tour
What a week for Andreescu.
The fact she won five consecutive matches for the first time since her 2019 US Open title run does not tell the story at all. Her four matches after the opening round were all three-setters and on several occasions it looked like she might be heading out, but she kept fighting and pulled through every time. It was particularly impressive to see her come from a set down to beat in-form Garbine Muguruza less than 24 hours after winning a two-hour, 44-minute clash against Amanda Anisimova.
Having missed all of last year due to injury and the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Andreescu showed she still belongs at this level. She has won 24 of her last 27 matches at WTA 1000 events and hopefully won’t be out for too long after suffering an ankle injury in the final against Barty.
‘Next Gen’ fail to take their chance
The first Masters event since 2004 without the ‘Big Three’ did not exactly go according to script.
The top two seeds - Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas - lost in the quarter-finals while Alexander Zverev, expected to be a contender after winning the Acapulco Open, was beaten in his opening match.
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Andrey Rublev had spoken beforehand about wanting to be as prepared as possible for Miami with the ‘Big Three’ absent, and among four semi-finalists with zero Masters titles between them he seemed the likely winner. However, having not dropped a set in his previous four matches, he was surprisingly beaten in straight sets by eventual champion Hubert Hurkacz.
While it was refreshing to see the likes of Hurkacz, 19-year-old Jannik Sinner and 20-year-old Sebastian Korda make deep runs, it was also a surprise that one of the more established names didn’t claim the trophy.
Sinner shows he has a bright future
Florida is proving a happy hunting ground for Hurkacz this year.
The Pole is now 10-0 in the Sunshine State for the season after victory at the Delray Beach Open in January. He is also up to No 16 in the rankings and will be one to watch over the next few months if he can produce on a consistent basis.
The progress of beaten finalist Sinner will also be worth tracking.
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Former Russian world No 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov called the 19-year-old a “mega talent” and his performance against Roberto Bautista Agut in the semi-finals was particularly impressive. Having started slowly, he battled back into the match several times, kept going for his shots and finished with a flurry of winners to break in the final game.
"I think he has something special in tough moments," was how Bautista Agut summed up the Italian while Alexander Bublik said "he is not human" after losing to Sinner in the quarter-finals.
Sinner is only the fourth teenager to reach the Miami Open final in the tournament’s 36-year history. The previous three – Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic – all reached world No 1. Will Sinner follow in their footsteps?
Could vaccines be an issue going forward?
The ATP and the WTA are keen for players to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Both tours have recommended players accept vaccine shots when available and the ATP has updated its tournament protocols to include an exemption list for vaccinated players and give them some minor perks.
Yet the reaction among players this week when asked about the vaccine suggests they might need more persuading.
Women’s world No 8 Sabalenka said she “really doesn’t want it yet” while Miami semi-finalist Svitolina also wants to wait and Rublev said he would choose not to at the moment. But Rublev also suggested he could be swayed if there more benefits.
"I know for the moment now it doesn't really give you any privilege…You still have to be in the bubble."
Will the tours start to make more allowances for players who do get vaccinated? And how far will they go?
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