Former world number one Angelique Kerber’s early season resurgence continued in fine style on Saturday, with the two-time Grand Slam champion beating Ashleigh Barty to claim the Sydney International title- her first title since the 2016 US Open.
Both Kerber and Barty were unseeded in Sydney had impressed throughout the week, though whilst it was Barty who impressed in the very opening stages, Kerber’s experience helped her settle into the match and eventually proved a little too much for the home favorite, prevailing 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 11 minutes to win her 11th career title.
Both women will now head straight to Melbourne, where the Australian Open will begin in two days time. Barty, seeded 18th, will face Aryna Sabalenka in the opening round, whilst 21st seed Kerber will start against fellow German Anna-Lena Friedsam; both matches will take place on Tuesday.
Resurgent Kerber maintains winning run
After a poor 2017 season, Kerber had started 2018 very brightly, winning all of her Hopman Cup matches before heading into Sydney, and that confidence may have shown as she was able to see off Barty to claim her first title of the new season.
It was the Australian who had won their last meeting, beating the German in straight sets in Zhuhai last October, and it was her who got off to the slightly brighter start, looking comfortable on serve to begin with as she twice came close to breaker Kerber. However, Kerber was able to punish Barty, breaking early on for a 3-2 lead, and was not tested in the first set again as she took it 6-4.
After looking comfortable throughout most the first set, it seemed that Kerber could run away with proceedings as she broke Barty in the very opening game of set two. The Australian, playing in front of her home crowd, rallied slightly and broke straight back to get back on level terms, though was broken again at 2-2 and was unable to even up this time. She had an opportunity to break when Kerber was serving at 4-3 up but failed to do so, and the German remained firm as she held to love to seal an impressive victory.
The victory will undoubtedly come as a huge relief to Kerber, who had only reached two finals since rising to the world number one ranking after the 2016 US Open, losing both of them. The German will certainly be one to watch out for in Melbourne, where she won the title two years ago, as will Barty, who could face off against world number one Simona Halep in the fourth round.