For the third day in a row, Ashleigh Barty faced a one-set deficit -- and for the third day in a row, the World No.1 fought back to win her match. With this latest comeback, she has another WTA singles title to show for it.
Barty defeated No.5 seed Aryna Sabalenka, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 to claim the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix title in Stuttgart on Sunday, successfully completing a week of battles by the top seed to notch her third title of the season.
"This week’s been phenomenal for me," Barty said, in her post-match press conference. "We’ve played a lot of tennis, a lot of matches.
"And I’ve certainly felt like I’m taking my tennis to kind of a new level, in a sense of being able to be calm and play with freedom and play without consequence in a way, just going out there and try to bring my best every single point."
The Australian collected her 11th career singles title, and her second title on clay -- Barty’s only previous clay-court title notably came at 2019 Roland Garros, where she won her first Grand Slam singles championship.
Barty also improved to 4-3 in her closely contested head-to-head against Sabalenka, adding to her most recent previous win over the Belarusian which came last month in the Miami Open quarterfinals.
Barty’s come-from-behind victories to wrap up her title run each came over Top 10 opponents, knocking off World No.9 Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals and World No.5 Elina Svitolina in the semifinals before her victory over World No.7 Sabalenka. Barty has now won her last 10 matches against Top 10 opposition.
Grateful to be doing what I love 😍🥳 pic.twitter.com/ex6OworNBF— Ash Barty (@ashbarty) April 24, 2021
"Tennis is a strange sport at times," Barty said. "Even though you can be a set down, I didn’t feel I was very far off. I had a couple of break points and opportunities myself, you take one or two of those and it’s a completely different ball game.
"I think it’s important to just continue to work in the right direction, try to do right things and know that over time you hopefully get the result, and if you don’t, you just keep going for the next time, and I think that’s a massively important attitude to have."
Barty becomes the first reigning World No.1 to claim the Stuttgart crown since Justine Henin in 2007. As she approaches her 73rd week as World No.1, Barty is also projected to claim the top spot in this season's Porsche Race to Shenzhen next week.
The top seed pulled off another turnaround this week by firing 26 winners, four more than the aggressive Sabalenka. Barty was 5-for-12 on break points, while Sabalenka only converted two of her 10 break points. Sabalenka was also undone by 39 unforced errors, 14 of which came in the 20-minute second set.
It was Sabalenka who started the match with extreme composure, erasing three break points in the early stages of the opening set with controlled power, then charging into a Barty service game at 3-2, holding three break points. On each of those three occasions, Barty came up with one of her variety of strong serves to fend off the chances, and she held on for 3-3.
Sabalenka would take her opportunity two games later, as Barty misfired long on multiple occasions to hand the Belarusian two more break points. The fierce Barty forehand saved one, but Sabalenka at last converted a chance after a missed dropshot by the top seed. Sabalenka, feeling confident, mixed some dropshots in with her power plays as she served out the one-set lead.
However, in the second set, Barty shored up her game while Sabalenka’s shots suddenly went regularly awry. On her third break point at 1-0, Barty grabbed her first break of the day after a Sabalenka forehand flew long. The Australian collected a second break with a stunning forehand crosscourt winner to move ahead 4-0, and she eased to the second set bagel from there.
In the decider, Barty started to use her slice backhand to greater effect, drawing Sabalenka off court before putting away follow-up crosscourt forehands to jump ahead 3-0. Sabalenka gritted her way back on serve but double-faulted away another game at 3-2.
Barty then had to face three break points in a marathon 4-2 game, but the Australian was up to the task and held on, putting herself a game away from victory. Barty closed out the affair on her second match point, as she added the Stuttgart title to her previous 2021 crowns, at the Miami Open and the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne.
If another singles title wasn't enough, Barty came back later to take the doubles title in Stuttgart as well. She teamed with Jennifer Brady to upset No.1 seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 6-4, 5-7, [10-5] in the doubles final.
Former Top 5 doubles player Barty notched her 12th career WTA doubles title with the tight one-hour and 41-minute victory. For Brady, it was the first-ever WTA doubles title of her career.
Barty became the first player to sweep the singles and doubles titles in Stuttgart since Lindsay Davenport did so in 2001, 20 years ago.
"It’s extremely humbling to be even mentioned in the same sentence as both Justine [Henin, the last current World No.1 to win in Stuttgart] and Lindsay," Barty said. "They are both incredible champions, legends of our sport, and to be able to have a little bit of a shared history within this tournament is really cool."