Sydney International final :Angelique Kerber serves notice with clinical defeat of Ashleigh Barty


Last November Angelique Kerber was reduced to tears after losing to Ashleigh Barty in China, willing a terrible 2017 to be over.

Skip forward two months and the German former world No.1 believes she’s well on the way back to her best, after turning the tables on Barty to win the Sydney International.

Saturday’s 6-4 6-4 victory at Sydney Olympic Park marks Kerber’s ninth-straight singles win of her 2018 reawakening, a display confirming she means business in next week’s Australian Open.

It is also her 11th career title and her first since the 2016 US Open, drawing a line under last year, when the two-time major winner slipped from world No.1 to outside the top 20.

Her final match of 2017 was that straight-sets loss to Barty in Zhuhai.

“It feels very good to be back here in Sydney and winning the first title of my first tournament this year,” Kerber said.

“The final against Ash was not easy, but I was able to play my game in important moments, so I’m really happy and proud.

“I was really happy last year was over. After Zhuhai I was going back home just trying to take a lot of weeks off and forget the year 2017.

“I was trying to focus again on my pre-season, working hard and just looking ahead on 2018.

“So this is where I am right now.”

Kerber should be back inside the top-20 at No.18 when the new computer rankings are released on Monday.

Barty, Australia’s top-ranked female, fell short of winning a first title on home soil, fighting hard in muggy conditions but coming off second best to Kerber’s experience.

Nonetheless, the 21-year-old Queenslander’s appearance in the tournament decider will lift her world ranking to No.16 as she embarks on a home slam campaign flush with expectation.

“I felt like it was a pretty good level,” Barty said.

“To be honest, I felt like I probably played some of the better tennis that I have this week.

“And Angie is on fire. She’s such a competitor and makes you work so hard for each point.”

Kerber’s on-court composure made the difference in the end, earning three championship points and claiming the silverware at the first opportunity.

Barty, who’d been looking to become the first Australian woman to win in Sydney since Alicia Molik in 2005, could convert only one of seven break points, while racking up 38 unforced errors to Kerber’s 13.

Barty served well and pushed hard early and had multiple break points on each of Kerber’s two opening service games.

But she was left to rue her failure to convert, double-faulting to give the German the valuable early break and a 3-2 lead before going on to take the set.

That script appeared set to continue when Barty was broken with little resistance to go down 1-0 in the second set, but she returned the favour with venom to break Kerber to love.

Down another break and serving to stay in the match, Barty dug out her fighting spirit, although it was not enough to crack her opponent’s dominance.

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