Zhuhai | Barty bags Elite Trophy
Ashleigh Barty bagged the WTA Elite Trophy on Sunday, the third and biggest title of her career, with an empathic 6-3 6-4 victory over China’s top player, Wang Qiang.
The Australian is now projected to rise No 15 in the world after stopping unlikely finalist Wang’s fine run and bringing her tally against Chinese players to 10 consecutive wins on the tour.
It’s been a phenomenal year and I’m looking forward to a bit of holiday and then getting ready for the Australian summer Ashleigh Barty
Wang had earned her place in the final by demolishing Garbiñe Muguruza on Saturday, having been drafted in to play the semi-final at the eleventh hour when Madison Keys withdrew with a knee injury.
The 22-year-old Australian picked up where she left off on Saturday to collect $828,000 for her week’s work at the $2,349,363 the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, staged for the 12 best ranked players who fail to qualify for the WTA Finals.
It was Barty’s third WTA title after her triumphs on the grass at the Nottingham Open earlier this year and at the 2017 Malaysian Open, and by far her biggest.
In this final she blasted out of the blocks, careening through 16 of the first 22 points and grabbing a double break to race out to a 4-0 lead but, just when it looked like the opening set was over, Wang, who has risen to 22nd in the world on the back of a fine run of form, staged a minor comeback to get back on serve at 4-3.
The 26-year-old Chinese began to avoid the Barty backhand, instead using her own power to elicit errors from her rival’s forehand and managing to win three consecutive games herself to erase both breaks.
Barty regained the break with a divine drop-shot, with strong serving and steady smashing for the first set.
By contrast, Wang had come out of the blocks unsteadily, with both wings going awry in her first service game, and the array of shots Barty sent her way effectively keeping the Chinese No 1 off balance.
The second proved to be equally of a roller-coaster ride, with break point opportunities coming and going but, yet again, it was Barty who prevailed.
Wang looked well-positioned to get back into the match but couldn’t fashion a break against the Aussie, and ultimately paid for her missed chances in the 7th game of the second set when a Chinese shank from the forehand resulted in the World No 19 breaking once more to surge ahead to 4-3.
From then on victory never looked in and she sealed the victory with a perfectly executed backhand crosscourt volley after 82 minutes of entertaining play.
The 22-year-old produced 2 aces and broke her opponent 5 times during the match while, overall, she produced 22 winners to 27 unforced errors.
“It’s been a great finish for me in China this week,” Barty said during the trophy ceremony.
“It’s been a phenomenal year and I’m looking forward to a bit of holiday and then getting ready for the Australian summer.”
Paying tribute to her opponent on Sunday, Barty added: “You’re a great chick. We always have battles on the court. You’ve had a phenomenal season.
“I know that I spoiled the party a little bit today in front of the Chinese fans, but you have some great success this year and I wish all the success for the future.”
While Barty will end her season ranked 15th in the world, her best ever year-end position, Wang will also feature in the top 20, becoming the first player from China to end a year in that group since Li Na back in 2014.