Sunday, November 3, 2019

Ash Barty gives a world number 1 performance in Shenzhen


We see it so many times--a big server (or, in this case, someone who has recently become a much bigger server) serves her way to a final and then can't find her serve. It happened again today at the WTA Finals when defending champion Elina Svitolina (who served a total of 27 aces in her previous two matches) suddenly lost her ability to serve her way out of trouble. Trouble, in this case, was world number 1 Ash Barty, who repeatedly flummoxed Svitolina with slices, volleys--and her own very good serve.

This was the first time, in six tries, that Barty has beaten Svitolina.

Barty, who ends the season as world number 1, was the top seed in Shenzhen, and--with her 6-4, 6-3 victory over Svitolina today--she is now the champion of the 2019 WTA Finals. Barty's season included the championships in Miami and Birmingham, and--of course--the French Open championship. Barty is an all-round athlete--she's fit, she's fast, she's steady, and she's clever. And, though we haven't been focused on it lately, she's also an outstanding doubles competitor.


The trophy ceremony gave us some special moments. We learned that chair umpire Mariana Alves has retired, and will now work as a supervisor for the WTA, which is a good thing because she will continue to be part of the world of women's professional tennis. The announcement nevertheless made me a bit sad.

The other special moment was the appearance of WTA Finals ambassador Aga Radwanska, who looked stunning, and who presented the runner-up bouquet to Svitolina.


While Svitolina was unable to defend her title, Timea Babos and Kiki Mladenovic did defend theirs, with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Hsieh Su-Wei and Barbora Strycova. Babos and Mladenovic are the first team since Black and Huber in 2007-2008 to defend the title.

For Babos, it was a hat trick: She won the 2017 WTA Finals with Andrea Hlavackova-Sestini. The last player to do that was Lindsay Davenport, who pulled it off in 1996-1998, with three different partners.

There is also some sweet consolation for Strycova, who ends the season as the number 1 doubles player in the world.