SYDNEY, Australia - Ashleigh Barty's surging career hit a new high at the Sydney International, where she shocked reigning Roland Garros champion Simona Halep, 6-4, 6-4, for her first win over a reigning World No.1.
Barty ended a breakthrough season with the biggest title of her career at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai and took that momentum into 2019 with back-to-back wins over the last two French Open winners: first Jelena Ostapenko in the opening round, now Halep after one hour and 27 minutes on court.
The 22-year-old drew first blood in the opening set, and though Halep - who was playing her first match of the year - swiftly leveled proceedings at 3-3, Barty had an extra gear on most every key point, breaking serve once more to take the opening set.
The Romanian was first to break in the second set with a chance to hold for 5-3, but Barty was undaunted, using her signature court craft to break straight back and secure victory two games later.
In all, it was a much more aggressive match from Barty, who struck 26 winners to Halep's nine; while the top seed can typically rely on her consistency, windy conditions likely contributed to the 22 unforced errors she hit over two sets. Halep will also rue her 2/11 break point conversion rate; Barty, conversely, converted four of seven break point opportunities.
Up next for the on-fire Aussie is either No.10 seed Elise Mertens, or the winner of to-be-completed first round between Anett Kontaveit and Monica Puig, which will take place later today.
More to come...