Barty downs Svitolina for first WTA Tour finals title

The WTA Tour Finals title was the fourth of the year for the French Open champion as Ashleigh Barty extended her lead at the top of the world rankings.

Ashleigh Barty appeared in the year-end finals for the first time and made the most of the opportunity by lifting the title.   -  Getty Images

Ashleigh Barty on Sunday became the first world No. 1 in five years to capture the year-ending WTA Tour finals with a 6-4, 6-3 win over defending champion Elina Svitolina.

Both players served and held easily to begin the match, but Barty broke as Svitolina served to stay in the opening set at 5-4. The Australian began the second set as she did the first – with a strong hold of serve. But Svitolina soon had the break and 2-1 lead. What followed was a flurry of breaks of serve till Barty went up 5-3 and then held to love for the win.

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The title was the fourth of the year for the French Open champion and extended her lead at the top of the world rankings. It also capped an unthinkable-a-year-ago run in 2019 for the Australian.

Barty broke out as a doubles star in 2013, reaching three Grand Slam finals at age 16 and 17. But she took a sabbatical from tennis in 2015 in order to not burn out. The Australian returned to the courts after a season of playing cricket in Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League and the Women’s National Cricket League. She won her first Grand Slam doubles title in her fifth final at the 2018 US Open, and then she reached her first Major quarterfinals in singles at the Australian Open earlier this year.

By winning the French Open, she became the first Australian woman to win a Grand Slam since the great Margaret Court at the US Open in 1973.

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A year to forget

For Svitolina, the loss marked the end of a lackluster year. The final at Shenzen was the first since she captured the WTA Tour Finals title there a year ago.

The Ukrainian has a remarkable record in finals, winning 13 and losing just three in singles. In fact, the last time Svitolina lost one was three years ago, at the Elite Trophy in November 2016.

But the dogged defence and tenacity was missing from Svitolina’s game on Sunday, allowing Barty the leeway to attack and dictate points throughout the match.