If there were nerves evident between defending champion Svitolina and Barty, then the first few exchanges gave very little away, and it was not until the ninth game before Svitolina had a first break point on the Aussie’s serve.
Then Barty had a couple of chances to break for the first set – taking three chances to steal the first set from the defending champion, as we were treated to solid rallies. Shot-making and court coverage were the watch-words from both players as they effectively played chess out on court.
It looked like we were in for the long haul and Svitolina took full advantage of a double-fault to gift her the first break, but some great rallying and fighting back from Barty redressed the balance immediately to put things back on an even keel.
A couple of games later, Barty would grab another break and started to look as though it would be her day, but Svitolina was not quite finished yet, breaking back straight away.
It was a lengthy attempt by Svitolina to hold, fending off break points but Barty’s tail was up in this set, taking her third chance to break for a 5-3 lead, before serving out to love to win her first WTA Finals title, capping off a year which also saw her win her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, and taking the year-end No. 1 as well.
Barty wins the biggest prize cheque in tennis history – $4.42m for the win, dwarfing the prize money for Slam winners and the men’s equivalent season-ending finale.
Australian Open 2019
Roland Garros 2019
US Open 2019
WTA Finals 2019
ATP Finals 2019
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Svitolina’s fantastic winning streak at the WTA Finals came to an end with 10 straight wins going back to her final round robin against Simona Halep in 2017, five wins in 2018 on the way to the title and then four wins here this year. To reach double-figures, especially after such a low-point in her debut is something to be applauded for one of the world’s most consistent players.
She said, of the match: “I think she was playing great match today. She was on it 100%. Then it was very, very tough. In the first set I had one small opportunity. Unfortunately, she played great, on line. I didn’t really had any other chance to come back. Then everything happened really quickly in the first set.
“Then second set, it was little bit up and down. It was tough for me to do something. I think, yeah, I missed just little bit of my chances and that’s what made the difference. But she’s No. 1 in the world for a reason.”
Svitolina is normally one of the world’s most consistent players and always good for titles, even though before this year her Slam record was distinctly average. This year, no titles, but two slam semi-finals – and agonisingly that giant paycheque was out of reach.
She continued: “Well, it still hurts to have the opportunity to be so close to get so much. But in the end, you know, it’s not about the money, it’s about the title actually.
“For sure I want to play well in the Grand Slams. Last year, I mean, I want, and it didn’t really happen. In Australia I made the same quarterfinal, then injury happened.
“That’s why priority for me is to be healthy. When I’m healthy, I can give myself a good opportunity to play well, play well at the Grand Slams as well. That’s going to be the priority for me. For sure, you know, I’m going to take positives. Not now because now I’m very, very sad that I couldn’t win today. But after time will be better.”
Barty: ‘It feels like it’s been a year that just hasn’t stopped’
After the shock on the tour when Barty chose to leave the tour as a teenager, and her subsequent success since her return, this has been a dream year for the young Aussie, as she finally cracked a way to beat Svitolina on a night when it mattered most.
She said, after the match: “It feels like it’s been a year that just hasn’t stopped. It’s been a year of incredible ups and downs, I think more ups than downs. To cap it off with a very, very special night tonight in Shenzhen is really cool.
“I think a slight shift in tactics and execution first and foremost. In the other matches, particularly in Indian Wells, I had opportunities. Had set points in the first set, breaks up and things like that.
“Tonight it felt like it was a lot more clear, a lot more concise from my end. I took my opportunities when I got them tonight. Pretty happy to play that kind of level of a match in such a big match.”
For everyone else, the season is over, but for Barty there is one more tournament to play, which means as much as her accolades in 2019.
“This Fed Cup final is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. It’s been two or three years in the making for the current team that we’ve got. It’s taken a lot of work, a lot of trust from Alicia [Molik].
I can’t wait to get to Perth in the next couple days and then start preparing for what will be the most perfect way to end a season, playing for your country, for myself to play in front of my friends and family, representing Australia, wearing the green and gold. There’s absolutely nothing better.”
Her break from tennis and subsequent success at Big Bash cricket is now obviously the stuff of legend, but there is a lot to be said for the break that she took, and how it shaped her life.
“I felt like for me, that kind of period of my life that I had away from tennis, away from professional tennis, was really important for my development as a person more than anything, regardless of the tennis player.
“When I started hitting balls again probably in February 2016, it feels like a long, long time ago now, but it was also when I started the journey with [Craig Tyzzer]. For us, we wanted to try and see what we were capable of as a team.
“Our team has grown and developed from there. I think for us, it’s just been a really special year to know that kind of the sky is the limit. We’ve played some exceptional tennis this year. We’ve had some heartbreaking moments and we’ve had every
emotion in between.
“We’re just trying to get better every single day. That’s the reason why we’re working so hard every single day, is to enjoy the journey, enjoy the story of my life I suppose. I’m very grateful that I get to share that with him.”
The Fed Cup Final takes place between 9-10 November.
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