Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty capped off her tremendous 2019 WTA season of firsts to win the largest purse in tennis history on Sunday, defeating defending champion Elina Svitolina, 6-4, 6-3, at the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen to pick up her fourth title of the year and a $4.42 million prize money check.
With the win, Barty added her first Billie Jean King Trophy to earlier breakthroughs at Roland Garros—her first major singles title, Miami—her first Premier Mandatory title, and Birmingham—her biggest career grass crown. During the round-robin stage, Barty became the first Australian to clinch the WTA’s year-end No. 1 ranking and finishes as her tour’s match wins leader with 56 victories. She also claimed her first win over Svitolina in six attempts to deny the eighth seed her first trophy of the year.
"It's been the most incredible year for me," summed up Barty during the trophy presentation.
Neither player was put under pressure on serve until the ninth game, when Barty saved the first break point of the match in a near seven-minute game to hold for 5-4. Throughout the set, the Australian looked to match her forehand up against Svitolina’s, a tactic that reaped rewards in the ensuing game. Barty hit four inside-in forehand winners, including a return winner on her third set point, to secure just her third set in 13 played against the world No. 8. Barty struck 19 winners to six from Svitolina.
A loose game from Barty, culminating with a double fault, saw Svitolina take a 2-1 lead in the second set. Remaining composed, Barty showed off her all-court game, getting up for a tough overhead to break back and held to love to regain control.
Svitolina’s coach, Andrew Bettles, came to the court urging her to stay positive, stating, “You can do this. You need to get back to the tactics we spoke about before. You’re straying away from it slightly. Go out there with renewed purpose. Stay with the hard shots into the backhand side. Hard and fast. You just backed off a bit. She got too much in the middle of the court and could dictate with her forehand.”
The visit didn’t lift Svitolina’s spirits, who double faulted to fall behind 4-2. While Barty was unable to consolidate, she battled to win a high-pressure game to move ahead 5-3 and closed out the 87-minute victory at love. Svitolina saw her 10-match win streak at the season finale come to an end.
"Tonight it felt like it was a lot more clear, a lot more concise from my end. I took my opportunities when I got them," Barty told press. "I think it was also important for me to move forward, then to try to bring Elina in a few times, which worked really well."
Though the WTA season is over, Barty’s year is not done yet. The Ipswich native will return home to lead her country at next weekend’s Fed Cup final in Perth against France. Australia is seeking its first title in 45 years and looks to snap a 0-8 skid in championship ties.