Ashleigh Barty stormed back from a set down against Daria Gavrilova on Friday and advanced to the Sydney International final, further underlying her standing as ‘s top-ranked female player.
The Queenslander won 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 against a fiery Gavrilova, who struggled to find any consistency with her serve, and who earned a code violation for racquet abuse when frustrations boiled over.
Friday’s performance was one of Barty’s least convincing of the tournament, yet the world No.19 still found a way to overcome a set deficit and 42 unforced errors, including nine double-faults to book her spot in the final against German Angelique Kerber, who was too strong for Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi.
???It’s a dream final at the Sydney International pitting a former World No. 1 and two-time grand slam winner against the rising star of n women’s tennis.
“The rhythm wasn’t quite there. I think I shot myself in the foot with my serving in the first [set] and didn’t give myself an opportunity to be dominant on service games,” said Barty, who is now one win from becoming the first n woman to win the Sydney International since Alicia Molik since 2005.
“Against Dash [Gavrilova], she’s a world-class returner and puts pressure on you right from the get-go. For me, it was nice to find the rhythm eventually but would definitely like to see it a little bit earlier in matches.
“I felt great yesterday; I felt like I played my best tennis probably all year. Today it wasn’t quite as good, but it was good enough to get the win.
“It’s nice to make a final at home, but I think in my eyes it’s perfect preparation for next week. I mean, I’d love to go one further and hold the trophy up here, but, you know, I love playing in , I love playing at home, it’s nice to be able to get a lot of matches here and be rewarded with the final.”
Neither player found any consistent rhythm on a very warm Ken Rosewall Arena, but it was Gavrilova in particular who let herself down with ill-timed double-faults.
The world No.25 won 68 per cent of points when she nailed her first serve, but continually left the gate open for Barty to pounce when required to send down a second.
On one occasion her second serve clocked just 104 km/h as she tried desperately to stop the double-faults that plagued her throughout the match.
Frustrations boiled over after Gavrilova broke Barty to make it 4-4 in the second set, only to double-fault when serving to repel a break point. She slammed her racquet into the ground before being told off by the umpire, and just minutes later Barty had claimed the second set and levelled the match.
“I got frustrated on that four-all game,” Gavrilova said.
“Just probably hitting a double-fault in the net . . . obviously we’ll work on that a little bit.
“It was really swirly [on court], it was changing a lot. Sometimes I was thinking, ‘OK, why am I missing serves?’ Like I thought my ball toss was good, and I was driving with legs, but just the contact wasn’t . . . it just felt like the ball was just getting away.”
Barty proved far too strong after claiming the second set and will play for a second career title on Saturday, looking to add to the Malysian Open she won in 2017.
Then all focus turns to world No.96 Aryna Sabalenka in the first round of the n Open before a possible second-round tie against Giorgi.
“It’s exciting going into my home slam as No.1,” Barty said.
“It’s not something that I focus on, it’s more about me playing matches the right way and doing the right things on and off the court to try and get the results, and to be able to have that No.1 ranking is a bonus.
“Everyone is going through a different stage in their career, and obviously this is a first for me. Even last year was very much a first throughout the whole year.
“I was sort of stepping into new grounds with rankings and stages in tournaments. We have set up a perfect platform for me to work with this year to try and go deep in tournaments, whether it’s in or in Europe or in the States.”