Defending champ Barty to play Andreescu in Miami Open final

MIAMI (AP) — In her first match at this year’s Miami Open, Ash Barty was one point from elimination. Now she’s one win from becoming a repeat champion.

The top-ranked Barty returned to the final by beating number five seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3.

Barty has gained momentum after starting the tournament by saving a match point against qualifier Kristina Kucova. That was Barty’s first match outside her native Australia since February 2020.

“Whenever you come back from a match point, it’s a little bit of a strange feeling,” she said.

“You have to be more open with what the possibilities the rest of the tournament could be, and keep going out there and keep fighting, knowing you could have just as easily been out of the tournament.”

Ashleigh Barty. PHOTO: AP

Barty will play for the title against No 8 Bianca Andreescu, who swept the final four games to beat number 23 Maria Sakkari 7-6 (7), 3-6, 7-6 (4) in a match that ended at 1.35am.

The 20-year-old Andreescu improved to 7-1 this year in three-set matches. She advanced to her first final since winning the 2019 US Open, and seeks her fourth career title after sitting out all of 2020 because of injury and the coronavirus pandemic.

On the men’s side, unseeded 20-year-old Sebastian Korda’s breakthrough run ended with a quarterfinal loss to number four Andrey Rublev, 7-5, 7-6 (7). Korda, slowed in the second set by a left thigh injury, was the youngest American to make the men’s quarterfinals in Miami since Robbie Ginepri in 2003.

“This week showed me I can keep up and play with the biggest names in tennis,” Korda said. “It was a really positive week.”

Korda said he didn’t think his injury was serious. While he departed, his sisters, Jessica and Nelly, were in contention at the LPGA’s ANA Inspiration in California after breaking par in the first round.

Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz of Poland will play in their first semifinal at a top-level ATP event when they meet. Hurkacz advanced by rallying past second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Hurkacz, seeded 26th, has won three in a row when facing a top-five opponent, but he beat Tsitsipas for only the second time in their eight meetings.

“I just try to like keep building my game and improving,” Hurkacz said. “Not all the time are you going to have the results that you want, but if you stay positive and improve your game, the results will eventually come.”

They’re coming for Barty after she was locked down for a year in Australia because of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 Miami Open. Barty won the event in 2019, and said her run to that title was different from this year’s matches in Miami.

“Chalk and cheese,” the Aussie said. “The conditions have been different here this week. It has been a lot warmer and physically very demanding.”

She’ll play Andreescu for the first time.