World No 1 Ashleigh Barty and former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu will go head-to-head for the first time in a mouthwatering Miami Open final on Saturday.
Australian Barty spent the last year at home because of the Covid-19 pandemic and Miami is her first tournament abroad since February 2020. She is also the defending champion at the WTA 1000 event after the 2020 edition was cancelled.
Andreescu also returned to action after a 15-month injury lay-off at the Australian Open in February, but after playing a follow-up event in Melbourne she had to withdraw from tournaments in Adelaide, Doha and Dubai with a leg issue.
"I haven't played her before, haven't hit with her. It's a fresh one for both of us," Barty, the 2019 French Open winner, told reporters after a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Elina Svitolina.
"Bianca has shown in big tournaments that she's got the ability to beat the very best, and I know from the little that I have seen that she's got a way of moving around the court that's extremely physical."
A slight concern for Barty was the medical timeout between sets to attend to a preexisting abdominal injury.
“Yeah, I was a little bit sore,” she said. “I got some assistance with some tape on it. But knowing we’ve got a day to recover tomorrow, I promise you I’ll be right as rain and then we’ll be good to go.”
The 20-year-old Andreescu needed all of her physical strength on Thursday to beat Greek rival Maria Sakkari 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 in a match that didn't finish until 1.53am local time.
"Sometimes I literally feel like I'm an octopus out there running side to side, I feel like I have eight legs," she said after reaching her first final since the 2019 US Open triumph.
"It's insane. Sometimes I don't even know how I get to some shots. But it's that fighting spirit I have always had in me, never giving up.
"Against her, I had no choice but to run for everything that I could and just fight until the end because that's what she was doing. She was really taking control of the points a lot of the times. It was really tough, I'm not going to lie.
"My whole game plan was to try and do that because I knew she was going to do that, and it could've been either of us winning. I'm just super happy that I pulled through."
Andreescu said she has wanted to play Barty for a long time and was glad to finally have her chance.
"Her being number one and her doing really, really well. Her game style, as well. It's something I have never really experienced," Andreescu said. "I love a challenge, and I know she's going to challenge me on Saturday."