Ashleigh Barty has outclassed 2018 winner Elina Svitolina to claim the elite season-ending championship and the biggest cash prize in tennis history, a cheque for a staggering $6.4 million.
Barty upstaged Svitolina 6-4 6-3 in the Shenzhen finale to become the first world No.1 to win the WTA Finals series since Serena Williams five years ago and the first Australian since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.
The 23-year-old’s latest triumph capped a dream regular season in which Barty also landed her maiden grand slam crown at the French Open in June and became the first Australian since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002 to secure the year-end top ranking.
No Australian woman has achieved the feat since rankings were introduced in 1975.
— WTA (@WTA) November 3, 2019
“It’s been the most incredible year for me,” Barty said after being formally presented with the year-end world No.1 trophy.
“But first and foremost congratulations to Elina and your team, you’ve had an exceptional year.
“You’re one of the toughest competitors on the tour and I know we’ll have many, many more battles in the future.”
Her history-making win also completed the perfect preparation for next week’s Fed Cup final against France in Perth, where Barty will bid to lead Australia to glory for the first time since 1974.
While most of her rivals spent the week complaining of the notoriously soft and slow purple court, Barty went quietly about her business, dropping serve just four times in her four wins over world No.2 Karolina Pliskova, world No.6 Petra Kvitova, world No.7 Belinda Bencic and now the eighth-ranked Svitolina.
Barty finished the regular season with a WTA-best 12 wins over top-10 opponents as well as a tour-leading four titles from six finals, her latest success coming indoors having already picked up trophies on clay, grass and hard courts in 2019.
Throw in an equal-tour-high 56 wins from 68 matches and Barty is nothing less than a worthy year-end world No.1.
Barty had lost all five of her previous encounters with Svitolina, who was riding a 10-match winning streak at the WTA Finals after sweeping to last year’s title undefeated.
— TennisAustralia (@TennisAustralia) November 3, 2019
But Barty emerged on a mission on Sunday night.
She dropped only five points in her first four service games before snaring the opening set with a booming forehand return winner down the line.
The top seed dropped serve twice in the second set but, as champions do, broke back each time.
The title match was all over after one hour and 27 and minutes as Barty not only joined Williams and her idol Goolagong Cawley on the honour roll but also fellow all-time greats Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Justine Henin and Martina Hingis.