By Jane Voigt
April 1, 2017 — With a subtle lob and a challenge from her opponent that fell flat, Johanna Konta of Great Britain won her biggest title today, defeating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the Miami Open’s women’s singles final.
The victory for Konta (No. 10) was even more poignant, considering this was only her second appearance at this WTA Premier Mandatory tournament. Two years ago she entered the qualification tournament and lost in the second round of that.
“On paper, it might look like a quick turnaround, but it isn’t. I needed a little more time,” Konta explained to ESPN, when asked why her rise in the game has come so quickly. “I needed more experiences to accumulate what I have. I play smarter tennis, now, and calmer tennis.”
Konta seemed stunned that the match was actually over — 6-4, 6-3 — after hitting the lob winner.
“I actually couldn’t believe it was over,” she began. “I was convinced there were more points coming.”
Konta was humbled by the victory. She thanked fans, friends and coaches, after she congratulated Wozniacki (No. 12) on a good run to the final.
“You guys are incredible and have been throughout the whole week,” she told people inside the stadium. “Miami is such an energetic city and you bring that into the stadium.”
As due reward, Konta will rise to her highest ranking — No. 7 — on Monday. The victory also puts her at number 2 in the Race to Singapore, just behind Karolina Pliskova. For her efforts, Wozniacki will move up to number 12 on the WTA Ranking.
Although Wozniacki out titles Konta by a long shot — she has 25 compared to Konta’s 3 — the impressive nature of her rise in the sport have many atwitter about future possibilities. She ended 2014 ranked No. 150.
“I love trying to get better every day,” she told ESPN. “It’s very rewarding to get a pat on the back like this.”
Konta also revealed a key tactic about her game, in her interview.
“I think the belief has always been there. It’s been there since I was a little girl,” she said. “Today, too, I stayed in the moment and enjoyed every point. It was hot and humid, so I kept trying to keep the game plan in my mind.”
This was Wozniacki’s 7th Premier Mandatory final. She has won two of them: 2010 Beijing and 2011 Indian Wells. It was both players first appearance in this final and Wozniacki’s 45th final of her career. After beating top-seeded Pliskova in the semifinals, Wozniacki now possesses the most wins of 2017 — 23. She recently moved to Miami to train in order to improve her overall fitness.
“I felt like it was my home crowd,” Wozniacki told fans, during the awards’ presentation. “Thanks for cheering me on all week.”
Konto was favored in this match because of her aggressive baseline game and her serve. Wozniacki, though, remains one of the best competitors on tour. She doesn’t back away from a challenge. However, today, she couldn’t get her rhythm as Konta continually threw her off with quick returns, a fierce forehand, and shots taken on the rise.
She showed that aggression from point one, winning the first game of the match at love. She was not going to get strung along by Wozniacki’s desire to grind out points.
“She has weapons,” Mary Jo Fernandez said, calling the match for ESPN. “She’s positive and has turned weaknesses into strengths. Three years ago, her forehand was a liability. She also has increased her racquet-head speed.”
Another asset in her corner is Coach Wim Fissette. After winning the first set, he came out for an on-court coaching session. ‘Are you happy?’ was the first thing he said.
“I think Fissette is great,” Fernandez added. “He keeps it positive. When he comes out she relaxes, which is good.”
In contrast, Wozniacki’s father — Piotr — seems to be less enthusiastic and more punitive. After Caroline dumped a dipping return into the net, he shook his head in disapproval as she walked back to the baseline. Perhaps that’s one reason she continues to be edgy during a match, especially when she struggles as she did today. She becomes irritable. At odds with calls, as if there’s a conspiracy against her. That posture gives opponents all sorts of reasons to bring on more pressure.
This was the 33rd Miami Open women’s singles final. Konta became the 14th different player to lift the trophy that commemorates Butch Buchholz, a top player from the 1950s and 1960s and founder of this tournament in 1985.