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World No. 1 Barty wins Stuttgart, first player to three titles in 2021
The Australian beat Aryna Sabalenka in the final of the WTA 500 event to extend her winning streak against Top 10 players to 10 in a row and to become the first player, man or woman, to win three tour-level titles this year.
Published Apr 25, 2021
World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty battled back from a set down for the third straight day to win her third WTA title of the year, beating Aryna Sabalenka in the final of Stuttgart on Sunday, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3.
She’s the first player, man or woman, to win three tour-level titles this year—she also won one of the WTA 500 events in Melbourne right before the Australian Open, as well as the WTA 1000 in Miami.
“This week’s been phenomenal,” she said. “I’ve played a lot of quality matches, and I feel like I’ve taken my tennis to a new level, in the sense of being able to be calm, playing with freedom, playing without consequence in a way, just going out there and trying to bring my best every single point.”
Stuttgart might have been her toughest conquest yet, though. She had to battle back from a set down against three Top 10 players in a row in the last three rounds: first, she dug out of a 5-3 hole in the third set to beat No. 9 Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals, 2-6, 6-1, 7-5; then, she beat No. 5 Elina Svitolina in the semifinals, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, after the Ukrainian served for the match up 6-4, 5-4.
Finally, the aforementioned win over No. 7 Sabalenka to win the WTA 500 event. Sabalenka had won her last six WTA finals in a row—now, Barty extends her winning streak in WTA finals to five in a row.
Barty was asked about her ability to turn matches around, which was on clear display in Stuttgart.
“Tennis can be a strange scoring system at times—you can be a set down, but even today I didn’t feel like I was very far off,” the 2019 French Open champion said. “I had a couple of break points myself, and you take one or two of those and it’s a completely different ball game. I think it’s just important to continue to work in the right direction, try and do the right things and know that over time you can hopefully get the result you want. And if you don’t, you just keep chipping away the next time.
“That’s a massively important attitude to have, almost a sense of calm, that your self-worth and how you feel after you walk off the court, for me it doesn’t matter about the result, it’s how I go about it.”
Barty has another impressive streak going now, too—she’s now won 10 matches in a row against Top 10 players, her last loss to a player in the elite coming against a No. 10-ranked Kiki Bertens in her second round-robin match at the WTA Finals back in 2019. She’s 6-0 against Top 10 players in 2021.
And the cherry on the cake? Barty came back out after the singles final and won the doubles title with Jennifer Brady, too, the second time she’s swept singles and doubles at a WTA event, having done it at a WTA 250 event in Kuala Lumpur in 2017. She won the doubles there with Casey Dellacqua.
She’s the first player to sweep singles and doubles in Stuttgart since Lindsay Davenport in 2001.
Meanwhile, at the other WTA event of the week, No. 67-ranked Sorana Cirstea won her first WTA title in 13 years, upsetting No. 17-ranked Elise Mertens, 6-1, 7-6 (3), to win the WTA 250 in Istanbul.
Cirstea’s only other WTA title came in Tashkent, Uzbekistan—also a WTA 250 event—back in 2008.
A French Open quarterfinalist in 2009 who went as high as No. 21 in the world in 2013, Cirstea has been building a resurgence over the last six months. She finished 2020 at No. 86, but then won a $100,000 ITF event in Dubai during the off-season, beat Petra Kvitova at the Australian Open for her first Top 10 win since 2017, and is now projected to return to the Top 60 after her triumph in Istanbul.