World No. 1, Ashleigh Barty takes on rising star, Dayana Yastremska in the final of the Adelaide International on Saturday.
Barty vs Yastemska is live from Adelaide on Saturday, 18 January from 4:30pm local time/ 6:00pm GMT
Barty battled back from a set down to take down Danielle Collins in Friday’s semi-finals, while Ukrainian teenager, Yastremska overpowered Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets to advance to her first premier-level final.
It has been a very good response from Barty after she was surprisingly beaten by Jennifer Brady in her season opener in Brisbane last week. She opened her Adelaide campaign with a three-set victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, took down Czech left-hander, Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets in the quarter finals before outlasting the in-form Collins in the last four.
Collins had recorded some eye-catching results this season, including blistering wins over top-ten stars Elina Svitolina and Belinda Bencic, and she set about adding Barty that list in confident fashion on Friday, taking the opening set 6-3. One of Barty’s great qualities is her abilities to make in-game adjustments, and the world No. 1 worked her way into the match in the second set, employing her vaunted variety as she raced through 6-1 to force a decider.
There was hardly anything to choose between the players in the final set, and fittingly went into a tie break, which Barty edged to complete a 3-6 6-1 7-6 victory after an hour and 52 minutes.
“I think I worked hard tonight, and we got the result that we’re after,” Barty said after the match. “I felt like I had a lot of clarity with what I wanted to do, and Danielle has the ability to take the match out of your hands a little bit”.
“I think I was able to shift court position a lot better in the second set, make a lot more balls, particularly when I was defending, and just kind of try and push her over the edge that little bit more”.
Barty is into her 13th tour-level final, and will attempt to win her 8th title on Saturday. Four of the previous seven titles came last year, when she claimed her maiden Grand Slam triumph at Roland Garros, won her first Premier Mandatory title in Miami, and added trophies in Birmingham and the WTA Finals in Shenzhen to close out an outstanding season.
She has been to two previous finals on home soil, finishing runner-up in Sydney in 2018 and 2019- will it be third-time lucky for the world No. 1 as she faces Yastremska on Saturday?
Things are already shaping up nicely for Yastremska, who looks set to have a very big season.
It’s been a very sharp climb for the Ukrainian teenager, who was still as low as 188th in the rankings at the start of 2018. A storming end to that season lifted her into the top 60, while she was up to 22nd by the end of 2019. Her 2019 featured titles in Hua Hin and Strasbourg, quarter finals in Hobart, Wuhan and Tianjin, and a fourth round run at Wimbledon. She also qualified for the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, but missed out on a semi-final spot after going 1-1 in her round-robin matches.
Yastremska linked up with German coach, Sascha Bajin during the off season, and the early evidence suggests that the partnership will bring plenty of success to the 19-year-old. The Ukrainian opened her season with a three-set loss to Kiki Bertens in Brisbane, but she has put together a cracking week in Adelaide, moving past Timea Babos, Angelique Kerber (who retired in the second set), Donna Vekic and Aryna Sabalenka without dropping a set.
Yastremska served at only 52% against Sabalenka, but she won 79% of points on her first serve, and crucially, half of the points on her second serve. She might have closed out the match earlier, having held a 6-4 3-1 lead, but Sabalenka fought back to force a tie break in the second set. Yastremska raced out to a 3-0 lead in the breaker, and never relinquished her advantage as she went on to complete a 6-4 7-6 victory after an hour and 46 minutes.
“It’s nice. I’m very happy,” she said after the match. “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.”
“I had a good preseason. I work on a lot of things, and I think that’s, like, a payoff”.
Yastremska is already guaranteed to reach a new career-high ranking by virtue of her run to the Adelaide final; she will break into the top-20 if she beats Barty to the title on Saturday.
Barty won their only previous meeting, a 6-4 6-1 result in Miami last year. Yastremska spoke of how she enjoyed the pace of Sabalenka’s groundstrokes in Friday’s semi-finals; she is unlikely to get that against Barty on Saturday. Barty has all the variety to make life awkward for Yastremska, and while she will concede her fair share of winners, she will also extract plenty of errors from the Ukrainian.
“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”, Barty said of the final.
“It’s about me trying to keep as much scoreboard pressure as I can, and I think it’s still sticking to the way I want to play. It 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”.
I think the “Ash Barty brand” will be too good for the young gun on Saturday.