Heading into the Miami Open, there was plenty of talk about whether Ash Barty deserved her place at the top of the WTA rankings.
A quarter-final exit at the Australian Open followed by a first round loss at the subsequent Adelaide International had many questioning the points system that saw Barty retain her place at the apex of women's tennis.
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Thanks to her scintillating display at the Miami Open however, Barty has crushed those questions - and had a subtle jab for her critics afterwards.
Barty defeated Canadian star Bianca Andreescu 6-3, 4-0 after her opponent succumbed to an ankle injury late in the second set.
Despite the injury to Andreescu bringing a premature end to proceedings, some considered the match to have been fairly one-sided in Barty's favour.
Barty held on to the no.1 ranking she earned in 2019 throughout last year, despite not competing in tournaments following the Australian Open.
Asked about the rankings debate after the Miami Open final, Barty said her rivals had ample opportunity to catch up to her in the 12 months she was out of the game.
“I never have to prove anything to anyone. I know all the work that I do with my team behind the scene,” Barty said.
“I know there has been a lot of talk about the ranking, but I didn’t play at all last year and I didn’t improve any of my points whatsoever.
“There were girls who had the chance to improve theirs, so I felt like I thoroughly deserve my spot at the top of the rankings.”
The now two-time Miami Open champion added that, while she was fine with people expressing their opinion, that words ultimately don't affect her performance.
Barty also added that the continuing global pandemic had also had a significant impact on the WTA rankings.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion. That’s absolutely fine. I can’t control what anyone else thinks or what anyone else says.
“I feel like we deserve to be top of the rankings.
“Everyone needs to understand that it’s a pandemic. It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing for a lot of us to go through, so it’s a bit of a difficult situation.
“It doesn’t really get to me. I mean, it’s just what people say and I can’t change their opinion, so it doesn’t stress me out at all.”
Ash Barty on fire in Miami Open final
Barty, who spent last year out of competitive action back home during the pandemic, demonstrated her readiness for global tennis domination again with a superb all-court display to outplay the 2019 US Open champion.
Barty was on the way to what seemed an inevitable victory when Andreescu took a tumble, turning her right ankle when 2-0 down in the second set and having to call for the trainer at the end of the game when three-down.
She tried gamely to carry on with ankle strapped but, five points later, when the merciless Barty served an ace to go 4-0 up, the 20-year-old slumped to her haunches, broke down in tears and trudged to the net to concede after just 59 one-sided minutes.
Barty consoled the unfortunate Andreescu, who had not played at all in 2020 because of a knee injury, and admitted it had been a "brutal" way to have to win the final against a friend.
"Bianca, I'm shattered for you mate. I hope you recover well and this doesn't hinder your season too much," Barty told her at the trophy ceremony.
"I'm sure we'll have many more good and hopefully healthy matches in the future."
It was Barty's biggest triumph since the 2019 WTA finals in China and capped a stellar fortnight's work which saw her beat three top-10 players and three grand slam champions en route to successfully defending the title she won when the Open was last played in 2019.
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