Ash Barty’s rapid rise up the women’s tennis rankings is not done yet, with the rejuvenated Australian poised to finish the season inside the world’s top 16.
The 21-year-old added another top-20 scalp to her burgeoning 2017 collection on Thursday in China, outplaying former world No.1 Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-4 at the WTA Elite Trophy tournament.
The win takes her through to Saturday’s semi-finals after Wednesday’s 6-4 6-1 defeat of world No.14 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Barty had started the week ranked a career-best 20 but she has jumped four spots on the live rankings with back-to-back wins.
There are many permutations, given the round-robin nature of the Zhuhai tournament, but no matter what transpires leading up to Sunday’s final, Barty will push for a top-16 seeding at January’s Australian Open.
“It’s not something that I look at before matches, before tournaments, anything like that,” Barty said of her ranking surge.
“It’s just a nice surprise the next Monday or Tuesday, depending on where you are in the world.”
Barty’s win – her ninth this season against top-20 opponents – was a symbolic one, after the Ipswich talent had opened her 2017 campaign with a tight three-set loss to Kerber in Brisbane.
Kerber was world No.1 and Barty ranked 271 in their January encounter. Thursday’s loss will likely result in the German dropping below Barty and possibly out of the top 20.
The Australian only returned to tennis in early 2016 after a season playing cricket in the women’s Big Bash League for Brisbane Heat.
She said cracking the top 100 for the first time this year was a weight off her shoulders, and that she now felt comfortable among the world’s best.
“(Before leaving tennis for cricket) I felt like a top-100 player, but I think your ranking truly reflects where you are,” Barty said.
“When I was younger, I wasn’t ready to be a top-100 player, probably more mentally and emotionally than anything.
“Breaking into the top 100 this year was a big barrier for me, just to sort of get the monkey off the back.
“I just feel like now, when I walk out on the court, I’m comfortable and confident against whoever I play.”
The tournament features the 12 best-ranked players who didn’t qualify for Singapore’s eight-player WTA Finals.
Her Saturday opponent won’t be known until matches are completed on Friday.