Swiatek downs Osaka to win Miami Open, earns world No. 1

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. ⁠— Iga Swiatek ended her journey to the women’s No. 1 ranking in fitting fashion.

Swiatek continued her searing start to 2022, beating Naomi Osaka 6-4, 6-0 to win the women’s title at the Miami Open and extend her winning streak to 17 matches.

Swiatek, who will replace the now-retired Ashleigh Barty at No. 1 in the women’s rankings officially when the points are updated Monday, also completed the so-called Sunshine Double – winning both Indian Wells and Miami. She’s the fourth woman to do so, joining Victoria Azarenka (2016), Kim Clijsters (2005) and Steffi Graf (1994 and 1996).

“This tournament has so much energy,” Swiatek said.

Swiatek’s homeland is Poland, which has seen more than 2 million people enter from war-torn Ukraine in recent weeks. Swiatek took a moment during her trophy ceremony to acknowledge that those refugees are on her mind.

“As I was doing in my previous speeches at Doha and Indian Wells, I want to say to Ukraine to stay strong,” Swiatek said. “Everything’s going to get better.”

Swiatek broke Osaka for a 3-2 lead in the first set, hanging on from there to win a 52-minute slugfest that saw the opening game – on Osaka’s serve – feature seven deuces and go for 10 minutes.

The second set was a completely different story. Break, hold, break, hold, break, hold and that was that, as Swiatek finished off her ninth consecutive straight-sets victory. It was her third title of 2022 and her sixth consecutive win in a final, a streak that started at the delayed French Open in 2020.

Swiatek, who never faced a single break point, earned $1,231,245 for the win. Osaka earned $646,110 for making the final.

Osaka came into the tournament ranked No. 77 in the world, though certainly didn’t play like there are 76 better women out there on tour right now – beating seeded players in Angelique Kerber, Danielle Collins and Belinda Bencic on her way to the final.

Osaka was as high as No. 13 earlier this year, saw her ranking take a huge hit when she was knocked out early from the Australian Open, and will likely rise to No. 36 when the numbers are officially updated Monday.

Miami was her first final since winning the 2021 Australian Open.

“It makes me feel so good, makes so many feel so good, to see you happy on the court again,” tournament director James Blake told Osaka during the trophy ceremony.

As the cheers from fans got louder after Blake said that, Osaka eventually broke into a wide smile.

Osaka has openly talked about struggling with depression and working on her mental health since winning the 2018 U.S. Open over Serena Williams. She withdrew from last year’s French Open, left last year’s U.S. Open in tears and was brought to tears again by the comment from a spectator at Indian Wells last month.

But in Miami, it was all happiness.

“I want to dedicate this one to all the people that support me, my fans,” Osaka said as she held the crystal runner-up trophy. “I know I haven’t been in this position for a little minute. I know this isn’t the outcome you guys wanted, but I’m having fun up here.”

Swiatek also had kind words for Osaka after the match: “This sport is better with you,” the soon-to-be women’s No. 1 told the former women’s No. 1.

Swiatek would still be No. 2 in the rankings if Barty hadn’t retired or hadn’t asked to be removed from the list. But the gap between 1 and 2 in that scenario would have been much closer – Barty led by Swiatek by 2,204 points when the Miami Open began and would have seen that margin sliced down to 269 points on Monday.

The men’s final in Miami is Sunday when No. 6 seed Casper Ruud will face No. 14 Carlos Alcaraz.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.