Adelaide | Brilliant Barty raises AO hopes with victory
© Brenton Edwards/AFP via Getty Images
World No 1 Ash Barty completed the perfect preparation for the Australian Open by winning her first title on home soil in Adelaide on Saturday, beating the talented teenager Dayana Yastremska, 6-2 7-5, in 85 minutes.
The best part about this week is I fought and scrapped my way through and got better and better in each situation, in each match. I just put myself in the position to play for another title, which is really exciting... I can't wait to get started in Melbourne next week. Ash Barty
Barty had previously lost two finals in her homeland, both in Sydney in 2018 and 2019, and as she breezed through the first set looked certain for the win at the Adelaide International, but the Ukrainian battled back to make things tougher in the second set.
“This is incredible … a great start to the year,” Barty said.
“I definitely feel the love out here, I love playing in Australia, I love playing at home, it’s been incredible for my team to enjoy this week.
“It was nice to get the balling rolling this week … and I can’t wait to get started in Melbourne on Monday.”
The Australian will face another Ukrainian, Lesia Tsurenko, in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday as she faces the crushing pressure of carrying the World No 1 ranking into her home Grand Slam, but she has the maturity to not let it overwhelm her.
After both players held serve in their opening games of the first set, Barty drew first blood early by breaking the Ukrainian to love and then consolidated, forcing Yastremska on the back foot with fantastic net play.
The 23-year-old ruthlessly dismantled her young opponent’s power game, anticipating Yastremska’s patterns of play well and keeping a step ahead of the Ukrainian throughout.
She frequently lured her into awkward court positions by pulling her out wide with short, sharp angles, and dragging her into net with wickedly side-spun short balls.
The Aussie broke again to lead 5-2 before serving out the set in 30 minutes.
Yastremska, playing a reigning World No 1 for the first time in her maiden Premier final, found herself in a tactical bind.
Able to overwhelm her opponent with her first-strike power only intermittently, the 19-year-old instead found herself more often on the defensive, run from side to side by the Barty forehand and discomfited by the biting backhand slice.
As Yastremska pointed out to coach Sascha Bajin during an on-court coaching session, when she was on the front foot in rallies she would often squander opportunities with errors.
Where Barty’s put-aways were laser-guided and accurate, Yastremska’s attempts to bury the same balls would frequently miss by inches.
in the first set, the Roland Garros champion struck 8 winners to just 1 unforced error, while Yastremska’s ratio was 7 winners to 12 unforced errors.
The teenager faced break point in 4 of her first 5 service games, and Barty captured her delivery on 3 of those occasions as she moved into a 6-2, 2-0 lead at which point she briefly took her eye off the ball as Yastremska settled.
The Ukrainian battled a break of her own to level things and, to her credit, she made sufficient adjustments to turn the set into a real contest, buckling down to work her way more carefully through longer points and even responding to the Barty backhand with successful slicing of her own.
Yastremska grew in confidence as the set drew on, opening her shoulders to fire a series of spectacular backhand winners and pushing Barty onto her back foot with more consistency.
A run of 3 deuce games saw opportunities for both players, with the World No 24 holding 2 break points for a 5-3 lead, and was 2 points from snatching the set at 5-4.
Despite the improvement in her rallying and ball-striking during this stretch, she could not keep the ball in play in these key moments.
Instead, it was Barty who survived her own dip in intensity, with her unforced error count rising to 12 in the second set, and having escaped danger to hold for 5-5, she snapped back into her best form to wrap up the win.
A flurry of errant groundstrokes from the Yastremska racket handed over a quick break, before dominant serving saw Barty over the line, having reeled off the final 10 points of the match.
“I feel like we had a great tussle out there, I was finally able to bring it across the line. I’ve enjoyed the time here, I really tried to bring my best this week,” she said.
“I love playing at home in Australia. This is the payoff for the preseason work we did. It’s about coming out here and enjoying the competition.
“This tournament here in Adelaide has been exceptional. I know that you guys as fans and the public have been craving tennis for many years now, and I hope we’ve brought the best this week.
“It’s been a pleasure playing in front of you in this incredible centre court.”
Barty was presented with a carved wood trophy by a painted Aboriginal elder, who blessed it with a chant it before it was handed over.
“The best part about this week is I fought and scrapped my way through and got better and better in each situation, in each match,” Barty said.
“I just put myself in the position to play for another title, which is really exciting.
“It’s been incredible to play at home… I can’t wait to get started in Melbourne next week.”
Barty will take to the court at Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.
“It’s going to be exciting and a fresh tournament … I have to start with my clean slate for the Australian Open, I’m looking forward to that first round,” she said.
Barty hopes to end a much longer Australian title drought at Melbourne Park as it has been 42 years since Chris O’Neill won the title at Kooyong in 1978, the most recent homegrown player to clinch the Australian Open title.