Gutsy De­mon irked by draw

Big Czech spoils the Barty party


IT looked a done deal af­ter 26 min­utes, but Ash Barty lost her dream of claim­ing the last Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional ti­tle af­ter an epic three-set bat­tle against cham­pion Pe­tra Kvi­tova.

Barty had hoped to end a 13year drought to be­come the first Aus­tralian woman since Ali­cia Mo­lik in 2005 to win the Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional — to be re­placed next year with the ATP Cup — but Kvi­tova mounted a phe­nom­e­nal come­back to win 1-6 7-5 7-6 (7-3) in two hours and 19 min­utes.

Kvi­tova, the world No.8, was clearly trou­bled by in­jury, tap­ping her cramp­ing right thigh con­stantly, but bat­tled her way to a sec­ond Syd­ney ti­tle hav­ing won here at Ken Rose­wall Arena in 2015.

“It’s tough to take,” said Barty, who lost last year’s Syd­ney fi­nal to An­gelique Ker­ber.

“It’s hard to put in words at the mo­ment, but it’s been a hell of a week. I couldn’t have left any­thing more out on the court.

“Pe­tra came up with the goods when she needed it to­day. Some­times when you play Pe­tra, you have those matches where a lot of the time it’s out of my con­trol.

“She had the courage and she was brave in that buster (tie-break) in par­tic­u­lar to take the game on, and she de­served to win.

“I no­ticed to­wards the end she looked like she was gassed a lit­tle bit and took a few more risks and they paid off for her to­day.

“I have to tip my cap to her. I have had an amaz­ing start to 2019 and prob­a­bly three or four points shy of be­ing ex­cep­tional, re­ally.”

De­spite defeat, Barty is full of op­ti­mism for her Aus­tralian Open cam­paign.

“I’m a dif­fer­ent player than I was 12 months ago, I feel like I’m a much bet­ter player, I’m a more com­plete player,” Barty said.

“Cer­tainly with a week like this, I have had prob­a­bly one of the best weeks of my ca­reer. I feel like I’m play­ing great ten­nis. Yes, it’s a bit­ter pill to swal­low tonight, but we move on, we keep work­ing, and we have a slam to look for­ward to in a cou­ple days’ time.”

This re­sult seemed im­pos­si­ble af­ter the first set, when Barty swept the floor.

“It was such an amaz­ing fi­nal,” Kvi­tova said. “I was very slow from the be­gin­ning. I’m just happy I found a way to win it with some nerves and cramp­ing. It was a long one.” A FU­RI­OUS Alex de Min­aur has slammed Aus­tralian Open or­gan­is­ers for sched­ul­ing his open­ing match two days af­ter he was forced to play back-to­back fi­nals in sear­ing heat.

De Min­aur’s Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional semi-fi­nal against Gilles Si­mon was post­poned at 11pm on Fri­day due to heavy rain, and moved to noon yes­ter­day, mean­ing he had to play the semi and then back up in the fi­nal hours later.

Un­for­tu­nately, he en­coun­tered the hottest con­di­tions of the week yes­ter­day, with tem­per­a­tures soar­ing to 34C.

Nev­er­the­less, de Min­aur blitzed through Si­mon 6-3 6-2 to earn his place in a sec­ond suc­ces­sive Syd­ney fi­nal, be­fore down­ing Italy’s An­dreas Seppi 7-5 7-6 (7-5) five hours later.

The vic­tory made him the youngest win­ner of the tour­na­ment since Lley­ton He­witt also did it as a 19-year-old in 2001.

But de Min­aur said play­ing twice in one day meant he de­served a rest be­fore the Open.

“What’s more an­noy­ing is me hav­ing to play on Mon­day at the Aus­tralian Open and not get­ting helped out as

a fel­low Aussie at your home slam,” de Min­aur said.

“I think they’re pun­ish­ing Aussies for play­ing deep in their home tour­na­ments, and I think that should not be what they should be do­ing.”

Asked if he’d re­quested a post­pone­ment from Ten­nis Aus­tralia of his first-round match in Mel­bourne against Por­tu­gal’s Pe­dro Sousa, de Min­aur replied: “Yeah, I mean they came out with the sched­ule be­fore they even saw the halves or saw who was in the fi­nals the week prior. “I think that’s pretty poor.” De Min­aur’s cam­paign is es­sen­tially be­ing ham­pered by his suc­cess in Syd­ney, and there is a pos­si­bil­ity that had this not been his home tour­na­ment, the teenager could have pulled out to give him­self a bet­ter prepa­ra­tion for Mel­bourne.

“It was quite hot out there,” de Min­aur said. “It was pretty bru­tal con­di­tions. It’s prob­a­bly the hottest day we’ve had, very hu­mid as well. Long ral­lies, pretty tax­ing, but this is what I do the hard work for, to go out there and back it up.”

De Min­aur’s draw in Mel­bourne has him in line to play Rafael Nadal if both win.

Aus­tralian Alex de Min­aur makes it third time lucky by win­ning the Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional fi­nal 7-5 7-6 (7-5) against Ital­ian An­dreas Seppi last night. Pic­ture: AP

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