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Australian Open women’s seeds: Ash Barty wins Adelaide International over Elena Rybakina

A seven-game blitz is further evidence Ash Barty is nearing the peak of her powers as she kicked off her summer in the best possible fashion in Adelaide.

World No. 1 Ash Barty has started her summer in perfect fashion, clinching the Adelaide International title on Sunday.

The Australian Open remains Barty’s major goal, especially after she ticked off her childhood dream of winning Wimbledon last year, and she will again enter the grand slam in supreme form.

She will carry the hopes of a nation that hasn’t seen a local man or woman win an Australian Open singles title since Chris O‘Neil way back in 1978.

It’s the third-straight year Barty has claimed a title on home soil and fifth time in a row she has made at least a final before the Melbourne Park major.

Barty maintained her trend in Adelaide of rising to the task once she was challenged, posting a runaway 6-3 6-2 defeat of 14th-ranked Elena Rybakina, of Kazakhstan, in barely an hour.

The 25-year-old superstar struck more winners (17-15) and fewer unforced errors (13-26) than Rybakina in a masterful display.

“I’d like to start by congratulating Elena on a fantastic week with her team,” Barty said.

“It’s never easy starting the season off the back of a tough pre-season, but it was really fun to play out here with you today and I wish you the best of luck for the rest of the year.

“I’d, of course, love to thank the South Australian Government for making this tournament possible.

“I know it’s been a challenging 18 months, two years for all of us and it’s so nice to be here to enjoy a fantastic week.

“You guys have made this week exceptional for me; you’ve made it so much fun and you’ve brought that spark back in my tennis, so thank you so much — I really do appreciate it.”

Barty also thanked her team, including coach Craig Tyzzer, for sticking with her “through the thick and the thin”.

Opponents rarely get more than one chance against Barty, but Rybakina paid dearly for not capitalising on consecutive opportunities that would have seen her grab an early lead.

The problem for Rybakina was Barty saved them in the blink of an eye without her getting much of a look in.

A deep second serve firstly set up an excellent Barty cross-court forehand that drew an error from the Kazakh, then the Australian drilled an ace down the T to bring the game back to deuce.

The next two points were over in a flash, too.

Barty’s uncanny knack of keeping the ball in play while still repeatedly testing her opponent took its toll the very next game.

Rybakina’s error-riddled service game included her dumping a straightforward backhand drive volley into the net at 30-all, before a wild forehand gifted Barty a 5-3 lead.

Everything happened in a hurry from there.

They were the first two of seven games in a row to Barty that transformed a competitive contest into a lopsided encounter.

Barty starved Rybakina of shots on her favoured backhand wing and exposed her 184cm rival’s movement.

It helped that Rybakina’s serve, which delivered a combined 18 aces across her past two matches, wasn’t as accurate as usual, with only 42 per cent of her first serves landing in.

Barty moves onto the Sydney Tennis Classic next ahead of trying to win the Australian Open for the first time.

Barty passes another test in quest to end 44-year drought

Ash Barty narrowly dodged defeat in her first match this week in Adelaide.

But since trailing American Coco Gauff by a set and 4-2 – and with a break point to defend – the world No. 1’s shown why she is favoured to end the host nation’s 44-year Australian Open drought.

Defending champion Iga Swiatek was the latest rival confounded by Barty’s on-court artistry as the Australian extended her streak of making a final at home to five years.

In between, Sofia Kenin also had no answers for Barty’s considerable arsenal.

The 6-2 6-4 dismantling of Swiatek means Barty will face off with seventh-seeded Kazakh Elena Rybakina on Sunday for the Adelaide International title.

“This is unreal. It was so much fun playing out here tonight and Iga is an exceptional champion,” Barty said.

“She made me play my best tennis and I felt like we both played pretty well and there really wasn’t a lot in it, so I had a lot of fun out here tonight with her.”

It was largely one-way traffic for Barty after Swiatek briefly challenged early and even earned a break point.

It proved her only chance for the match.

Barty whipped a crosscourt forehand winner to stave off that opportunity then proceeded to feast on the errors that began mounting from Swiatek’s racquet.

Swiatek dumped a limp forehand into the net to hand Barty the break – and the momentum – in the next game.

As we’ve already seen in recent days, Barty is a wonderful frontrunner.

Swiatek saved another break point at 2-4 with her third ace, but Barty wouldn’t be denied on the next one, as she crashed through the Pole’s defences with an inside-out forehand winner.

The end was nigh once Swiatek double-faulted to give Barty the break in the third game of the second set, but she fought out the contest.

“This tournament was exceptionally tough right the way through,” Barty said.

“There were certainly no easy matches and I love to test myself against the best in the world and tonight was no different.

“I felt like each match I’ve been able to progressively get a little bit better and hopefully there’s a little bit more left in the tank for tomorrow.

“It’s going to be a fun Sunday – singles and doubles finals to play, here at home. There’s absolutely nothing better.”

Barty had already made the doubles final with fellow Australian Storm Sanders.

Originally published as Australian Open women’s seeds: Ash Barty wins Adelaide International over Elena Rybakina

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