Barty serves no­tice in opener

World No. 1 un­corks 10 aces to stop Ben­cic, An­dreescu starts to­day

The Peterborough Examiner - - SPORTS - SAN­DRA HARWITT

SHEN­ZHEN, CHINA—Top-ranked

Ash­leigh Barty of Aus­tralia re­bounded from a set down to win her de­but match 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 over Belinda Ben­cic of Switzer­land at the WTA Fi­nals on Sun­day.

Barty’s vic­tory was her 53rd of the sea­son, se­cond-most this sea­son after Kiki Bertens with 54.

The five-foot-five Barty is a sur­pris­ingly po­tent server and ended her first ca­reer en­counter against Ben­cic, also play­ing in her first year-end fi­nal, with her 10th ace of the match.

“I served par­tic­u­larly well at times, and that was the key for the se­cond and third sets,” Barty said. “I’m a lit­tle bit of a shorty, but not that much. I’ve al­ways wanted my serve to be a weapon.”

Ben­cic ad­mit­ted she was trou­bled by Barty’s serve.

“I think her serv­ing is what re­ally makes the dif­fer­ence be­cause it’s more like a guy’s serve than, yeah, a woman’s serve,” Ben­cic said. “It’s a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent.

“I think most I was trou­bled by her serve.”

Ear­lier, Naomi Osaka ex­tended her win­ning streak to 11 matches after de­feat­ing Pe­tra Kvi­tova of the Czech Repub­lic 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4 in the first of three round-robin matches on the day.

Osaka, the Aus­tralian Open cham­pion, ar­rived in Shen­zen hav­ing won the past two tour­na­ments she played — in Osaka, Ja­pan, and Bei­jing.

“Given that I do feel I’m a big­match player, there are some times when I play high­er­ranked peo­ple and I don’t do that great,” Osaka said. “So I feel like this tour­na­ment is a big chal­lenge for me.

“I think I’m not even re­ally think­ing of this tour­na­ment as the Fi­nals, I’m just try­ing to con­tinue on from where Bei­jing left off.”

The two-time Grand Slam cham­pion failed to take ad­van­tage of two match points when serv­ing at 5-2 in the third, but nailed down the vic­tory on a third match point when serv­ing in the 10th game.

Kvi­tova sur­ren­dered the en­counter when she sailed a back­hand cross-court wide on the fi­nal point.

“I know how Naomi is play­ing, how con­fi­dent she is from the past weeks when she played well in Asia,” Kvi­tova said. “So I did ex­pect re­ally tough match.

“She was just bet­ter in the break points, in those im­por­tant points.”

The only other time Osaka played Kvi­tova was when the Ja­panese player cap­tured this year’s Aus­tralian Open fi­nal by a score of 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4.

“It def­i­nitely feels good to win,” Osaka said. “I think more just be­cause I played against her, and I haven’t played her since (the) Aus­tralian Open.

“I didn’t re­ally have the best mem­o­ries. Like I didn’t want it to be that close again, but I think it was close again to­day.”

Osaka’s de­but at the year-end fi­nal last year in Sin­ga­pore ended in dis­ap­point­ment when she lost all three of her round-robin en­coun­ters.

The 29-year-old Kvi­tova, the old­est player in this year’s eight­player field, is com­pet­ing in her seventh WTA Fi­nals. She won the year-end ti­tle in her first ap­pear­ance in 2011, and was also a fi­nal­ist in 2015.

The stand­ings in the Red Group have Barty and Osaka at 1-0, and Ben­cic and Kvi­tova at 0-1 after the first day of ac­tion.

Pur­ple Group games will be played on Mon­day with Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Repub­lic play­ing de­fend­ing cham­pion Elina Svi­tolina of Ukraine, and reign­ing U.S. Open cham­pion Bianca An­dreescu of Canada play­ing reign­ing Wim­ble­don cham­pion Si­mona Halep of Ro­ma­nia.

In the dou­bles tour­na­ment, Ot­tawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and part­ner Xu Yi­fan of China lost to the Czech team of Barbora Kre­j­cikova and Ka­te­rina Sini­akova 6-4, 6-2.

NOEL CELIS GETTY IM­AGES

Top-ranked Ash­leigh Barty re­bounded from a set down to win her de­but match at the sea­son-end WTA Fi­nals in three sets.

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