Barty begins with a win in Zhuhai
Ash Barty scored her first ever win over the in-form Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and will advance to the semifinals of the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai if she beats Angelique Kerber.
The Chinese port of Zhuhai is a world away from Ash Barty’s native Queensland, but the 21-year-old insists she feels right at home.
And it certainly looked that way when the new Australian No.1 debuted at the city’s WTA Elite Trophy on Wednesday.
A 6-4 6-1 defeat of world No.14 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was her eighth win against a top-20 opponent this year and puts her in the box seat to progress to Saturday’s semifinals in the round robin tournament.
The season-ending event features the next-best 12 singles players who didn’t feature in Singapore’s eight-player WTA Finals last week.
Barty will be the first to book a semifinal berth if she beats Angelique Kerber on Thursday, while even a three-set loss could be enough to see her through on percentage.
Sending down nine aces in a dominant 74-minute display, Barty said there was a reason it all clicked.
“I think this court is actually quite similar to the one in Brisbane where I train most of the time, anyway,” she said.
“I think I feel really comfortable out on this court. Obviously tonight I was able to execute pretty well right from the get-go.”
Pavlyuchenkova had beaten Kerber in three tough sets on Tuesday night and Barty was able to exploit the Russian’s heavy legs.
But it was her serving under pressure that will give her confidence against the former world No.1 on Thursday.
“Yeah, I felt like I was able to hit my spots well, especially when I needed it on big points,” the world No.20 said.
Barty was ranked 271 and Kerber, now ranked 19, was on top of the world when the pair last played at the Brisbane International in January.
“I think I’m in a bit of a different position than I was in January,” said Barty, who nonetheless extended Kerber to three sets in that Brisbane battle.
“This week is just a massive bonus, to qualify for this week.
“And now to get a win, you know, I can just look forward to the match tomorrow and try and go out there and play with freedom again and try and put on my best tennis, and whatever happens, happens.”
In Wednesday’s other singles matches, Magdelena Rybarikova outlasted Kristina Mladenovic in a 7-5 1-6 7-6(5) contest that stretched nearly three hours, while Latvian Anastasija Sevastova beat Sloane Stephens 7-5 6-3.
It continues a sorry run for Stephens, who arrived in Zhuhai on the back of two first-round losses and a tournament withdrawal since her surprise US Open triumph.