November 3, 2019
Ashleigh Barty has claimed the richest prize in tennis history by winning the WTA finals in Shenzhen.
Her first victory over Elina Svitolina was not without its nervy moments.
But the irrepressible Barty came through a testing drama 6-4, 6-3 to live up to her number one ranking in style.
‘It’s been an incredible year,’ Barty reflected.’Tonight was about coming out and fighting to the end. I couldn’t be prouder.’
Being the best means more than any amount of money to any top sports star.
And yet $4.42 million – or £3.42 million in British money – is not a reward to be taken lightly. That staggering sum is what Barty just won.
Not even the great Roger Federer or Serena Williams have ever earned quite so much from a single event.
And to think Ashleigh Barty was regarded as just another player at the start of the year.
We tipped her as an outside bet for Australian Open glory. She shocked the world by winning Roland Garros instead.
And although she didn’t quite live up to some people’s expectations at Wimbledon or the US Open, Barty has proved to be the best player in the world in 2019.
Her reward from the WTA Tour Finals alone is simply mind-boggling.
But we can be pretty sure that colossal pile of money won’t change Ash.
Tennis players don’t get much more down-to-earth than the 23-year-old Australian.
She even gave up the chance of tennis stardom back in 2014 because she was sick of the travelling and wanted to live like a normal girl.
After a few professional cricket adventures and some time to rediscover herself, she was ready by 2016 to tap into her tennis talent once more.
And we have seen Ash handle the pressure better and improve on the big points even in the last few months.
Barty kept her cool in the edgy ninth game of the first set during this action-packed final, when the Ukrainian had break point but could only find the net with a key forehand.
Ashleigh held to go 5-4 ahead and maintained momentum to seal the opener at the third attempt.
The second set saw five breaks as both women battled ferociously. Early on Svitolina looked ready to take the contest to a decider.
But Barty was having none of it and thwarted one attempted comeback after another.
It was no less than she deserved for being the more daring player throughout.
Barty explained: ‘It was a slow court, so I had to take chances and shift position more. I had to take chances even if it meant a few more errors.
‘I’m proud of myself and the team, we tried to put ourselves in the biggest positions and occasions and we managed to do that.’
Time for the Barty party to get started.
There is so much more that Barty will want to achieve in 2020. Winning her home Slam has to be a target. Wimbledon too.
She has already won Junior Wimbledon. She loves the grass and beat Jo Konta to win Nottingham last year.
Will Ashleigh Barty win Wimbledon one day? Sooner rather than later, you suspect.
She seems destined to add the greatest tournament of them all to the greatest cash prize.