Sport Ash Barty wins in China as Australian Open title challenge takes shape
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Ash Barty wins in China as Australian Open title challenge takes shape

Ash Barty WTA Elite Trophy tennis
Australia's Ash Barty claims her 2nd title win of the year in China. Photo: Getty
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A career-high ranking and an all-important top-16 seeding at January’s Australian Open look on the cards for Ashleigh Barty after winning the WTA Elite Trophy at Zhuhai in China.

Barty powered to a 6-3 6-4 win on Sunday over local hope Qiang Wang  to claim her second title of a consistent year.

With it comes a projected rise to No.15 in the world when the WTA rankings are released on Monday, positioning her well to avoid higher-ranked players until at least the fourth round at Melbourne Park.

It continues a remarkable comeback to the WTA circuit for Barty who stepped away from the sport at the end of 2014 as seventeen year old. Barty had enjoyed considerable success as a teenager partnering Casey Dellacqua in a doubles pairing that finished runners-up in three Grand Slam events.

Having tried her hand at cricket with a season in the WBBL with The Brisbane Heat she returned to the tennis court in 2016 and has steadily built her ranking and reputation.

Barty will head to Melbourne Park in January as Australia’s highest ranked player.

Barty burst out of the blocks against Wang to take a 4-0 lead but, just as it looked like the opening set was over, the Chinese took advantage of some sloppy service games from her opponent to get back to 4-3.

But the Australian broke once more and served out the set.

Wang looked well-positioned to get back into the match but couldn’t fashion a break against Barty and ultimately paid for her missed chances in the seventh game.

A slew of unforced errors handed her opponent the only break of the set and Barty eventually closed out the match on serve with a backhand smash.

“It’s been a great finish in China this week,” said Barty, who completes her season in the best possible way.

“It’s been a phenomenal year and I’m looking forward to a bit of holiday and then getting ready for the Australian summer.”

Ash Barty tennis
Ash Barty is getting pumped for next year’s Australian Open. Photo: Getty

Barty had her share of luck to even make the tournament decider after losing her opening-round robin-match in straight sets to Aryna Sabalenka.

The Queenslander defeated Caroline Garcia in her second match; the Frenchwoman then going on to beat Sabalenka in their clash to allow Barty to sneak into the semi-finals.

She took full advantage – taking down world No.14 and defending champion Julia Goerges in the semi-final before beating Wang in the decider, collecting $828,000 for her week’s work.

The win caps another strong year for Barty who had started 2017 ranked 325 in the world after a two-year sabbatical from the game and spending time playing cricket.

It is her third WTA singles title, adding to her breakthrough 2017 trophy at the Malaysian Open and this year’s grasscourt win in Nottingham.

If as projected Barty’s ranking puts her in the top 15 it will shuffle seven time Australian Open winner Serena Williams out of the top 16 which would ensure the American faces a higher ranked opponent earlier in the first grand slam event of the season.

–With AAP

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