Ash Barty swats away Australian Open threat as pressure builds
Ash Barty has completed the perfect preparation for her Australian Open campaign, fighting past the in-form Garbine Muguruza to claim the Yarra Valley Classic in straight sets.
Muguruza had dropped just 10 games across four straight-sets victories leading into the final, but failed to go the distance with Barty, who won 7-6 (7-3) 6-4.
The Spaniard struggled to deal with the world No.1’s lethal backhand slice throughout the match and her errors proved costly in a see-sawing first set.
Muguruza landed the first genuine blow on Sunday, breaking the Australian’s serve then holding to snatch an early 3-1 advantage.
Barty broke back to even the ledger at 3-3, marking the first time Muguruza had conceded three games in a set across the tournament.
The 2020 Australian Open finalist broke Barty a second time and served for the set at 5-4 – only to be immediately broken back.
Barty would make Muguruza pay for her wastefulness, delivering a commanding tiebreak performance to snare the opening set.
Two ferocious forehands set her 3-0 up in the tiebreak and Barty kicked on to hold four set points, with a decisive forehand winner at 6-3 sealing the set.
The Australian broke Muguruza’s serve in the first game of the second set – after six deuces – and looked set to cruise from there, only to be broken back.
But holding a break point at 4-4, Barty used her backhand slice to effect to throw Muguruza out of position before ripping a forehand winner to break the Spaniard for a second time.
Serving for the match at 5-4, the Australian reeled off four quick points with ruthless efficiency, rounding out the victory with a delightful lob.
Barty will play Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic in her first-round match at the Open while Muguruza has a clash with Russian Margarita Gasparyan.