Ashleigh Barty becomes year-end World No 1 with opening victory at WTA Finals
Ashleigh Barty sealed the year-end world No 1 ranking by winning her opening match at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen against Belinda Bencic.
In the first-time battle between the two, Barty recovered from a sloppy opening set to win 5-7 6-1 6-2 and join Naomi Osaka with one victory in the Red Group.
By winning Barty became the first Australian woman to end the year as the WTA year-end world number one.
It was a tense opening for Bencic as errors in her opening service game gave the world No 1 a break point but once she got through that, the Swiss showed the sort of consistency that has seen her win two titles this year.
Both players continued to hold and even as the pressure built on Barty the Australian remained solid till 5-5. This is where Bencic’s impressive baseline play paid off and errors from Barty gave her opponent the break.
Bencic served out the set with some solid play again and the statistics showed that she had played only three per cent of her shots behind two metres from the baseline, keeping tight to the court as often as she could.
This was when the first serve percentage for Barty improved and the consistency in other parts of her game also got better. She broke Bencic twice consecutively to gain a 5-0 lead as the Swiss piled on more errors to hand the second set to her opponent.
Before the start of the final set Bencic had her left heel taped, sparking some injury concerns. Barty then threw caution to the wind and started attacking the net, breaking twice.
It was an error-ridden third set for Bencic as Barty stepped up and played some very solid tennis towards the end of the match and close it out easily.