ADELAIDE, Australia - No.1 seed Ashleigh Barty put two previous Australian final losses behind her to lift her first trophy on home soil, and eighth overall, with a 6-2, 7-5 win over the unseeded Dayana Yastremska in one hour and 26 minutes.
Barty had been twice a runner-up in Sydney, losing to Angelique Kerber in 2018 and to Petra Kvitova in a heartbreaker in 2019 - but, playing her first Australian summer as World No.1, rose to the occasion to become the first Australian to win a title at home since Jarmila Wolfe became the Hobart champion in 2011. Barty is also the first home winner of a Premier trophy or equivalent since Alicia Molik won Sydney in 2005.
"Third time lucky, I suppose, isn't it?" joked Barty afterwards. "The best part about this week is I fought and scrapped my way through and got better and better in each situation, in each match."
Over the course of the first set, the 23-year-old ruthlessly dismantled her young opponent's power game. Anticipating Yastremska's patterns of play well, Barty was a step ahead of the Ukrainian throughout, and frequently lured her into awkward court positions: pulling her out wide with short, sharp angles, and dragging her into net with wickedly sidespun short balls.
Yastremska, playing a reigning World No.1 for the first time in her maiden Premier final, found herself in a tactical bind. Able to overwhelm her opponent with her first-strike power only intermittently, the 19-year-old instead found herself more often on the defensive, run from side to side by the Barty forehand and discomfited by the biting backhand slice.
Moreover, as Yastremska pointed out to coach Sascha Bajin during an on-court coaching session, when she was on the front foot in rallies she would often squander opportunities with errors. Where Barty's putaways were laser-guided and accurate, Yastremska's attempts to bury the same balls would frequently miss by inches: in the first set, the Roland Garros champion struck eight winners to just one unforced error, while Yastremska's ratio was seven winners to 12 unforced errors.
The teenager faced break point in four of her first five service games, and Barty would capture her delivery on three of those occasions as she moved into a 6-2, 2-0 lead.
But to Yastremska's credit, the Hua Hin and Strasbourg champion was able to make the necessary adjustments to make the second set a much more even contest, buckling down to work her way more carefully through longer points and even responding to the Barty backhand with successful slicing of her own.
Having taken advantage of a handful of Barty errors to capture the break back, Yastremska grew in confidence as the set drew on, opening her shoulders to fire a series of spectacular backhand winners and pushing Barty on to the back foot with more consistency.
"At the start of the match she was a little bit erratic and gave me a few cheap errors in twos and threes in a row," acknowledged Barty. "I knew that wasn't going to stay that way throughout the whole match. She's too good of a player... to not make a change to some degree. The second set was a bit of a tussle, and I was kind of waiting for an opportunity."
Towards the business end of the set, a run of three deuce games saw opportunities hove into view for both players, with Yastremska left with more to rue. The World No.24 held two break points for a 5-3 lead, and was two points from snatching the set at 5-4 - but despite an improvement in her rallying and ball-striking during this stretch, could not keep the ball in play in these key moments.
Instead, it was Barty who survived her own dip in intensity - her unforced error count would rise to 12 in the second set with a champion's fortitude. Having escaped danger to hold for 5-5, the WTA Finals victor snapped back into her best form to wrap up the win.
A flurry of errant groundstrokes from the Yastremska racquet handed over a quick break, before dominant serving saw Barty over the line, having reeled off the final 10 points of the match.
Barty now heads to Melbourne, where she'll kick off Monday's night session against former Top 30 player Lesia Tsurenko inside Rod Laver Arena.
The Aussie discussed the importance of starting the year afresh, despite her phenomenal 2019 success. "I take the experiences and learnings from last year, but you have to start fresh," she emphasized. "Everyone is starting with a clean slate this year. It's about trying to bring out the best in yourself and problem-solve in those situations when you need to. I felt like I did that very well this week."
Characteristically, this is the same attitude she will take into the first major of the year.
"It's been a great two weeks of preparation... [but] I have to start with my clean slate for the Australian Open. I'm looking forward to that first round.
"I think I enjoy the challenge and I enjoy what next week will bring, regardless of what number is next to my name," she said. "You only get to play so many Australian Opens, so I think for me it's about enjoying the competition and the challenge and focusing on what I can do. I think there is not really much else I have to worry about in that regard.
"If it's a first round, if it's a final, if it's anything in between, it's still an amazing experience. I think I just have to go out there and enjoy it.