Ash’s agony will not dent be­lief

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT -

IT looked a done deal af­ter 26 min­utes, but Ash­leigh 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 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 through­out the match, but grit­ted 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 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. She had the brav­ery to be able to do that.

“I have to tip my cap to her. She played an ex­tra­or­di­nary match to­day. I have had an amaz­ing start to 2019 and prob- ably 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 with her ri­val, tak­ing it 6-1 in just 26 min­utes.

The sec­ond was a far more even con­test, with both play­ers ply­ing ex­cel­lent ac­cu­racy in sti­fling heat. Nei­ther ither dropped a serve un­til Kvi­tova cru­cially broke Barty at 5-all, and went on to take the set 7-5.

In a see­saw­ing third and de­cid­ing set, Kvi­tova broke serve again to lead 6-5.

Kvi­tova was vir­tu­ally hob­bling as she served for the match again, clutch­ing at her thigh through the game.

Barty got a break point but let it slip. Kvi­tova then served suc­ces­sive dou­ble-faults to give Barty the game and send it to a tie-break. Kvi­tova took a 5-3 lead in the tie af­ter a sen­sa­tional cross­court fore­hand win­ner, then won the next for three cham­pi­onship points.

Barty got caught flat-footed as Kvi­tova smashed a win­ner to clinch the crown.

“It was such an amaz­ing fi­nal,” Kvi­tova said.

Pic­tures: Getty, AAP

Aus­tralia’s Ash­leigh Barty (main) lost out to Pe­tra Kvi­tova (be­low) in the women’s fi­nal yes­ter­day.

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