Barty hoping she’s third time lucky in bid for first home title

17 January 2020, by Reem Abulleil

Ashleigh Barty had said ahead of her Adelaide International semi-final that she would never pass up an opportunity to play in front of her home fans and it’s easy to understand why.

The roaring capacity crowd on centre court at Memorial Drive on Friday helped the Australian world No.1 survive a brutal test against American Danielle Collins to reach her first final of 2020.

Barty rallied back from a set down to overcome Collins 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5) to set up a title match against another hard-hitter, Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska.

The 23-year-old Queenslander is looking to win her first tour-level singles title on home soil, and hopes she can go one better than her two runner-up performances in Sydney in 2018 (lost to Angelique Kerber) and 2019 (lost to Petra Kvitova). The last Australian woman to win a title at home was Jarmila Wolfe in 2011.

“Hopefully third time lucky at home for me. All I can do is keep trying to put myself in this position,” Barty said after her semi-final win.

“The last two years I have been close, and agonisingly close last year. But the two finals I lost I played great tennis. I lost to quality opponents.

“Tomorrow potentially is no different. All I have to do is go out there and try and do the best that I can. If it ends with a title, great. If it doesn’t, it’s not really going to change my mood too much going into the rest of the year and particularly the next few weeks.”

The 27th-ranked Collins broke early for a 3-0 lead and saved triple break point to hold in game seven, before scooping the opening set in 29 minutes. Barty was pressured in her opening service game of the second set but she survived and it was the Australian who broke for a 2-0 lead, handing Collins just her second break of the entire tournament.

A netted drive forehand from Collins saw her go down a double break. She saved a set point to hold for 1-5 but sent a backhand long to hand over the set to Barty.

Collins required medical attention to her back early in the decider but was able to resume play. Barty broke to inch ahead 4-3 but Collins retaliated immediately.

The crowd went wild as Barty rallied them behind her after she held serve in just 62 seconds to force a final set tiebreak. Collins drew first blood in the breaker but it was Barty who got her hands on two match points at 6-4. A fierce return winner from Collins saw the American save the first but she netted a backhand on the next point to send Barty into the final.

“Oh, that was amazing. It’s seldom that I’ll get the crowd involved, but, no, it was a lot of fun tonight,” said a beaming Barty. “I thought, why not? I was having fun out there. I thought that they were, as well. So why not get everyone involved and make a little bit of noise? It was incredible.”

Barty defeated Yastremska in their sole previous meeting during her run to the Miami title last year.

“Dayana is an exceptional ball striker, as well. She wants to be inside the court. She craves that court position and thrives when she’s ahead,” said the top seed. “It’s about me trying to keep as much scoreboard pressure as I can, and, you know, I think it’s still sticking to the way I want to play. Doesn’t really change too much for who my opponent is. It’s about me trying to bring the game style back to kind of the Ash Barty brand that I want to play.”

Yastremska earned the first Premier-level final of her young career with a 6-4, 7-6(4) rout of No.6 seed Aryna Sabalenka.

The 19-year-old from Ukraine squandered a 3-1 lead in the second set but halted Sabalenka’s comeback by grabbing the tiebreak to wrap up the straight-sets win in one hour 44 minutes. It was Yastremska’s 10th top-20 victory overall, and third of the week.

“I’m very happy, and especially in the beginning of the year. I think it brings me some confidence before the Grand Slam, so it’s nice to be in the finals,” said Yastremska, who is gunning for her fourth WTA title.

While still focused on her Adelaide mission, Yastremska has taken a peek at the Australian Open draw, where she has landed in the same quarter as Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams. Yastremska made a tearful exit from last year’s Australian Open, at the hands of Williams, who consoled her after their third round in a heart-warming scene on Rod Laver Arena.

She could get a rematch with the American should they both make the fourth round this upcoming fortnight at Melbourne Park.

“I saw the draw yesterday. I think it’s very good. I’m gonna try to get to Serena, because I would really like to play with her again. So I think it’s really good draw. I’m going to play match by match,” said Yastremska.

On her part, Sabalenka walks away with positives from Adelaide, having posted big wins over Simona Halep, Bernarda Pera and Hsieh Su-Wei. She falls to 0-3 head-to-head against Yastremska, and paid tribute to the Ukrainian’s level on Friday.

“She did great today, like, it wasn’t my best match and I wasn’t playing really well. I missed so many opportunities today. But it’s okay. Just good preparation for the Australian Open. Hopefully I’ll do better on the next weeks,” said Sabalenka, who faces Carla Suarez Navarro in the first round in Melbourne.

“I feel that I got enough matches. That’s why I came here, to play some matches. And I played them. Well, there is always something good, right?” she added with a smile.

Top seeds Nicole Melichar and Xu Yifan saved two match points en route to a 2-6, 7-5, [10-5] victory against No.3 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Darija Jurak to win the women’s doubles title.