Australian tennis superstar Ash Barty has made history in beating defending champion Elina Svitolina at the $14 million WTA Finals this morning.
It wasn’t an easy victory, as Barty was tested further in the second set, but ran out the eventual winner 6-4, 6-3.
Barty had won two of her round robin matches before the final, so she pocketed a cool $6.4 million – of that, a massive prize of $3.4 million for the final win. It is the biggest ever prizemoney awarded in men’s or women’s tennis.
If she had lost, Barty would have only received $3 million in total, which would still have been quite the prize after claiming over $10m in prizemoney throughout the season.
The 23-year-old’s latest triumph capped a dream regular season in which Barty also landed her maiden grand slam crown at the French Open in June.
It also completed her perfect preparation for next week’s Fed Cup final against France in Perth, where Barty will bid to lead Australia to glory for the first time since 1974.
Svitolina, as she won all her matches in the round robin stages, would have pocketed $6.8m for the win, but still won $3.5m for finishing runner up.
While most of Barty’s rivals spent the week complaining of the notoriously soft and slow purple court, Barty went quietly about her business, dropping serve just three times in her four wins over world No.2 Karolina Pliskova, world No.6 Petra Kvitova, world No.7 Belinda Bencic and now the eighth-ranked Svitolina. Barty finished the regular season with a WTA-best 15 wins over top-10 opponents as well as a tour-leading four titles from six finals, her latest success coming indoors having already picked up trophies on clay, grass and hard courts in 2019.
Throw in an equal-tour-high 55 wins from 67 matches and Barty is nothing less than a worthy year-end world No.1.
Barty had lost all five of her previous encounters with Svitolina, but emerged on a mission on Sunday night.
She dropped only five points in her first four service games before snaring the opening set with a booming forehand return winner down the line. Barty dropped serve twice in the second set but, as champions do, broke back each time.
The match was all over after one hour and 27 minutes.
“It’s been the most incredible year for me,” Barty said after being formally presented with the year-end world No.1 trophy.
“But first and foremost congratulations to Elina and your team, you’ve had an exceptional year.
“You’re one of the toughest competitors on the tour and I know we’ll have many, many more battles in the future.”
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Regardless, Barty will finish the year as the World No.1, the first Australian player to hold the year ending rank.
The 23-year-old is the first Australian woman to make the final of the season-ending showpiece since her idol Evonne Goolagong Cawley lost to Martina Navratilova in 1978.
Barty is now Australia’s first champion since Goolagong Cawley, who captured the trophy twice, in 1974 and 1976.
Barty has also reversed a run of five losses from five previous meetings with Svitolina, whose victory over Bencic was also the Ukrainian’s 10th consecutive win at the WTA Finals stretching back to 2017.
Barty humbled by Goolagong comparisons
Ashleigh Barty is humbled by the constant comparisons to Evonne Goolagong Cawley and says she’d be satisfied to carve out a career half as successful as her mentor and idol.
Barty is joining Goolagong Cawley in the tennis record books with seemingly every big win she has and did so again in reaching the final of the prestigious season-ending championship in Shenzhen.
The 23-year-old’s gallant effort in beating three top-10 rivals to make the title match at the $14 million WTA Finals continued a phenomenal season of firsts.
First Australian woman to claim the world No.1 ranking since Goolagong Cawley in 1976. Tick.
First world No.1 to lead Australia to a Fed Cup final without losing a singles and doubles rubber since Goolagong Cawley 43 years ago. Tick.
And now the first Australian to qualify for the final at the elite eight-woman season climax since Goolagong Cawley in 1978. Tick.
“Just being in the same sentence is a little bit mind-boggling,” Barty told AAP after her impressive 4-6 6-2 6-3 semi-final victory over world No.2 Karolina Pliskova.
“We’ve had some pretty special moments this year and I’d love to reach some of the other accolades as well that Evonne had. She’s an incredible human being.”
Inspired by Goolagong Cawley “on and off the court” since she was a child and named last year as an official National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador, Barty is honoured enough to call the seven-times grand slam champion a friend let alone to be matching some of her feats in the sport.
“It’s amazing that we share a connection in our heritage and culture and now we’re kind of growing in our connections in tennis as well,” Barty said. “It’s really amazing to be able to share that with her.” Barty’s win over Pliskova marked the 13th time this year she’d battled back from a set down and thrust her into a tour-best sixth final of 2019. “It’s been an incredible year for myself and my team. It’s the perfect way to cap it off,” Barty said after earning the right to play defending champion Elina Svitolina for the biggest cheque in tennis history.
“The biggest thing, it’s been a growth of women’s sport. For me individually, and I think for all of us players individually, it’s not something we think about,” Barty said of the extraordinary prize money.
“It’s more of kind of a general progression of putting our sport more on the map.
“We have the most beautiful sport, it’s a global sport. Now we’re getting more attention. I feel like we’ve earned that.”
– with AFP