Ashleigh Barty reacts after winning the Yarra Valley Classic final match against Garbine Muguruza in Melbourne on Sunday. Reuters
Top-ranked Barty cashed in on her first championship point against Garbine Muguruza in the Yarra Valley Classic and Daniil Medvedev clinched the ATP Cup title for Russia within seconds of each other on Sunday as the tuneup tournaments for the Australian Open were culminating the eve of the year’s first major.
World number one Ashleigh Barty insisted that she felt ‘no extra pressure’ ahead of the Australian Open as she tuned up with a battling victory over Muguruza to win the tournament.
The Australian wore down the two-time Grand Slam champion 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 on Margaret Court Arena in one hour and 47 minutes to claim her ninth WTA singles title.
Barty, hoping to break her country’s 43-year singles title drought at the Australian Open, said she was unfazed by rising local expectation.
The two-time major winner got the first break of serve to lead 3-1 before Barty broke back. Muguruza broke again and had a chance to serve for the first set, before Barty went on a roll.
The Australian star used her slice backhand and drop shots to keep Muguruza moving around the court, and mixed some powerful forehands with variety - clinching the match with a lob.
RUSSIA WIN ATP CUP: A relentless Russia crushed Italy 2-0 to win their maiden ATP Cup with Medvedev and Andrey Rublev in red-hot form leading into the Australian Open.
Russia were the only nation in the 12-team event to boast two top 10 players and they had swept past Japan, Argentina and Germany en route to the decider. Italy faced the same juggernaut on Rod Laver Arena, with Rublev destroying Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-2 in just 61 minutes before Medvedev overpowered Matteo Berrettini 6-4, 6-2 in 79 minutes. Medvedev is now on a career-long win streak of 14 matches, including his third ATP Masters title in Paris and victory at the season-ending ATP Tour Finals, with 10 of those victories over top 10 opponents.
Rublev has been equally impressive, winning five ATP titles in a breakthrough 2020, more than anyone else, as he raced up the rankings.
MERTENS claims GIPPSLAND: Elise Mertens beat Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 6-1 to win the Gippsland Trophy title, her sixth tour title and second at the WTA 500 level.
The 25-year-old Belgian has won 27 matches since the tour restarted in August, more than any other player on the women’s circuit in that time.
Meanwhile, the WTA Tour decided not to play a final for the Grampians Trophy because of a lack of time, meaning semi-final winners Anett Kontaveit and Ann Li will get equal points as winners.
The tournament was created for the players who had to go into hard lockdown during quarantine and weren’t allowed out of their hotel rooms for practice. It started Wednesday and a full day of play was lost Thursday because of a temporary suspension of matches in all tournaments after a coronavirus scare.
Kontaveit beat Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-2, 6-3, 11-9 and Li beat fellow American Jennifer Brady 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5) ,10-6.
EVANS claims FIRST TITLE: Dan Evans captured his first ATP title by beating third-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-2, 6-3 in the Murray River Open final. It was another step on the career ladder for Evans, who wasted three match points the last time he reached a final. He is seeded 30th for the Australian Open and will face fellow British player Cameron Norrie in the first round.
The 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime is still seeking his first title, having lost all seven finals he has contested on the ATP tour.
SINNER triumphs: Fourth-seeded Jannik Sinner beat compatriot Stefano Travaglia 7-6 (4), 6-4 to win the Great Ocean Road Open, earning the 19-year-old Italian back-to-back titles on tour following his victory at Sofia late last year.
Sinner was going to have to recover quickly, with a first-round match against No. 11-seeded Denis Shapovalov at the Australian Open on Monday.