WTA Kuala Lumpur: Ashleigh Barty captures her first title with a clear victory over Nao Hibino

WTA Kuala Lumpur: Ashleigh Barty captures her first title with a clear victory over Nao Hibino

The young Australian wins her maiden WTA singles title starting from the qualifying draw, and will make her WTA top-100 debut on Monday.

stefania-ellero
Stefania Ellero

It took one hour and 16 minutes for Ashleigh Barty to the end of a final which saw her take full control of the match from the beginning. The 20-year-old Australian captured the Alya Malaysian Open with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Nao Hibino, the first singles final of her career. 

Barty served well throughout all the match, dictating the rallies and putting her opponent under pressure; the Japanese, on the other hand, struggled from the start to keep on with Barty's more powerful shots. 

With her win, the Australian, currently 158th in the rankings, will make her debut into the WTA top-100 for the first time in career - before her temporary retirement in 2014, she had reached a career-high ranking of 129.

With two WTA doubles titles already under her belt - both with Casey Dellacqua, with whom she won their third title together in Kuala Lumpur - Barty successfully claimed her first singles title in her first ever final at the WTA level.

For Hibino, it had been the third WTA final overall, with her previous two played in Tashkent, where she had won her maiden and only WTA title in 2015.

Barty dominated the match to win her maiden WTA title in Kuala Lumpur  [Photo credit: Stanley Chou/Getty Images]

Barty secures an early lead to take the first set

After battling to hold in the first game of the set, the Australian claimed the first blood, breaking Hibino to 15 and holding to love to secure a 3-0 lead.

The Japanese needed to save two more break points before being able to hold in the following game, but her opponent confirmed to be too solid on her own serve to let her find some chances to level-off the score.

After a brief delay due to rain, the match reprised to see the two players battle in the longest game of the entire match. Once again, Hibino needed to fight on every point against the more powerful opponent, and she needed to save three more break points before converting her first chance and eventually holding the game.

The Australian, however, kept serving too well for Hibino to fight back. She didn't need any more break points as she dropped only one point in her last two service games, and claimed the first set with a 6-3 score line.

Nao Hibino fought well but suffered her opponent's power  [Photo credit: Stanley Chou/Getty Images]       

Barty dominates and claims the match

Hibino served first in the second set, and immediately needed to save three break points before holding to close the battled game. Barty answered with another quick hold, and converted her first break point to claim the early lead as she had already done in the first set. 

While serving to consolidate it, however, she found some struggles for the first time, and Hibino took advantage of that to gain her first and only chance to break back in the match. The Australian saved it with an ace, and then needed all the help from her serve to convert her third chance and eventually held. 

The Japanese needed to hold back her opponent once again in the following game, before being able to hold; on the other hand, Barty found again the good consistency on her service games that gave her yet another quick hold.

After that brief moment of struggle, the Australian seemed to find full control of the match. Helped by two return winners and a well-placed passing shot, Barty broke Hibino for the second time in the set and got a chance to serve out the match.

She converted her chance immediately, and with a powerful hold to love that left Hibino unable to fight back, the Australian signed the end of the match and captured the title with the final score of 6-3, 6-2.

Barty and Hibino posing during the trophy ceremony  [Photo credit: Stanley Chou/Getty Images]               
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Match in numbers

Looking at the statistics, it becomes clear that the Australian had huge help from her serve in taking control of the games to win the match.

Despite having a lower percentage of first serves in (68%, against Hibino's 78%), Barty scored 88% of the points with her first serve, to her opponent's 51%.

The Australian's consistency allowed her to drop (and save) only one break chance opportunity, but on the other hand, she didn't show the same consistency on her own chances to break, converting only 3 out of 13. 

The number of winners, however (Barty's 26 to Hibino's 9) shows once again how the control of the match had been in the Australian's hands, who scored important points especially with her forehand.

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