ZHUHAI, China - Australia's Ashleigh Barty moved atop the Rose Group at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai on Wednesday courtesy of a 6-4, 6-1 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
In the previous two matches against Pavlyuchenkova, Barty won a combined six games total, but in the pair's first match in four years, Barty broke the Russian's serve four times, served nine aces and saved six of the seven break points she faced.
With the win, the No.9 seed will qualify for the semifinals outright, should she beat Angelique Kerber on Thursday to move to 2-0 in group play.
"Tonight, I was able to execute pretty well right from the get-go," Barty said. "I like these conditions here. I have had a pretty good record here in Asia so far this year. I feel like I played pretty well tonight."
Barty jumped out to 3-0 leads in both sets, seeing her early lead through to the end on each occasion.
She battled through late adversity in the first set, as Pavlyuchenkova got back on serve in the ninth game only to drop her own to fall behind, losing her first set in three matches against the Australian.
In the second set, Barty served her way through early tests, saving two break points in the first game and four in the third to stay ahead, and added an insure break in the sixth game to score the win in one hour, 12 minutes.
"I felt like I was able to hit my spots well, especially when I needed it in big points. I think that 2-Love game in the second was a big one to squeak out of," the Aussie added.
"I felt confident going after my first serve and then still back on my second serve to win more points than not."
Barty and Kerber will face off for the second time in 2017 on Thursday, as Kerber earned a three-set victory over the wildcard Barty at the Brisbane International in January.
At that time, Barty was beginning her return to WTA action and ranked outside the world's Top 200. Since then, she won her first WTA title, made her Top 20 debut, became the top-ranked Australian, and has scored a total of eight victories over Top 20 opponents.
"I think I'm in a bit of a different position than I was in January when we played against each other. This week is just a massive bonus, to qualify for this week," Barty said.
"Now, I can just look forward to the match tomorrow and try and go out there and play with freedom again and try and put on my best tennis, and whatever happens, happens."