Ashleigh Barty’s impressive return to the WTA Tour this season took perhaps the biggest step of all on Friday, with the Australian easing past French Open champion and eighth seed Jelena Ostapenko to reach the biggest final of her career at the Wuhan Open.
Barty previously left the sport having become disillusioned with it and instead competed in cricket for a short while, though won her first ever WTA singles title earlier this year and, after having beaten Johanna Konta and Karolina Pliskova earlier in the week, stormed past the Latvian 6-3, 6-0 to reach her first ever Premier 5 final. Ostapenko, who had beaten world number one Garbine Muguruza on Thursday despite dropping the first set 6-1, was far from her best as she failed to make any real impact against the Australian.
Having won today in just 54 minutes, Barty will be up against Caroline Garcia in the final, who like the Australian is unseeded this week. Both women have been very impressive this week, hopefully meaning it will be an entertaining final to cap off the tournament.
Barty storms past Ostapenko to continue career-best run
Ostapenko and Barty had already faced off once this year, with the Latvian prevailing in a tight three set encounter on the clay in Rome, though today Barty was in complete control, picking up her third top ten of the week in fine style, despite having never beaten a top ten player before the tournament started.
The Australian got off to the perfect start, breaking early on for a 2-0 lead, though failed to consolidate as Ostapenko immediately got back on level terms. The Latvian was playing fairly well early on, though was broken once again and this time Barty was able to back it up, holding for a commanding 5-2 lead, and though the French Open champion was able to serve to stay in the set she could put little pressure on Barty, who comfortably served out the first set in 37 minutes.
Barty had been tested a little by Ostapenko in the first set, though faced little opposition in the second as the Australian started to dominate against the below-par Latvian. She broke in the very opening game of the set, and some poor play by Ostapenko allowed her to secure a double break lead in extremely quick fashion. Barty comfortably held to put herself just two games away from the final, and a third break put her in complete and utter control of the match. The Australian showed no nerves when serving for one of the biggest wins of her career, taking the second set in just 17 minutes to set up a meeting with Garcia.