Having begun 2017 outside the top 300, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty will hope to complete a dream week in Wuhan. She comes up against Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, who is looking for her fourth WTA title. The stage is unprecedented for both women, who have never made the final of one of the elite Premier 5 tournaments before. Both Garcia and Barty have shocked some big names this week in Wuhan. But who will win on the day it matters most?
The final in Wuhan will be the first meeting between these two players. Garcia is the elder of the two in terms of both age and experience. Ranked 20, the 23-year-old has already had a fine career, having won three singles and six doubles titles on the WTA tour. Garcia reached her first singles Grand Slam quarterfinal at the French Open this year by beating compatriot Alize Cornet in straight sets.
Barty has just one title on the Tour so far, which she won this year in Malaysia. Interestingly, the 21-year-old made a switch to cricket two years ago by choosing to play in her country’s Big Bash League before returning to tennis in February 2016. The Australian was just 16 when she competed in her first Hopman Cup and it was there that she first got noticed, getting praise from former World #1 Ana Ivanovic.
Both women are also accomplished doubles players, having won multiple titles in the discipline. Barty is a four-time Grand Slam doubles finalist while Garcia won a Major doubles title at the French Open last year. However, they have never lagged far behind even in singles against the top players.
Path to the final
Barty started her campaign in Wuhan with a straight-sets victory over USA’s Catherine Bellis. Indeed, she didn’t drop a game in the second set, coming through 7-5 6-0. Barty also bagelled Britain’s #1 Johanna Konta in the first set of her second round. However, she had to work hard for that win in three sets, 6-0 4-6 7-6. It was then the turn of 9th seed Agnieszka Radwanska to get bagelled and Barty defeated her Polish opponent 4-6 6-0 6-4 in the third round.
Barty’s closest match was in the quarterfinal stage against former world #1 Karolina Pliskova. Pliskova saved three match points in the third set and was serving for the match at 6-5 before Barty broke back. Barty eventually prevailed 4-6 7-6 7-6 in 2 hours and 33 minutes. In the semifinals, Barty was back to her best when she beat French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets, with a bagel in the second set once again, 6-3 6-0.
Garcia registered the first massive upset of this tournament when she beat Germany’s two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in the first round, 3-6 6-3 6-1. She then registered easy straight-sets victories over USA’s Christina McHale and Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova in the next two rounds. In the quarterfinals, Garcia faced Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova, whom she beat 7-6 6-4 in 1 hour and 49 minutes. Garcia’s semifinal opponent, Maria Sakkari of Greece brought with her a lot of attention. Sakkari had beaten last week’s Tokyo winner Caroline Wozniacki in the first round after coming through the qualifiers. However, Garcia ended her dream run in straight sets, winning 6-3 6-2.
How do they match up?
At 5’5 tall, Barty’s game is likened to Martina Hingis because of her short height and all-court play. Barty has useful kick serve and she uses her forehand to create difficult angles for her opponents. Garcia uses attacking, powerful groundstrokes and an accurate first serve to build an advantage during a match. The Frenchwoman also has a much better two-handed backhand and this might tilt the odds in her favour. Both players doubles experience could lead to an unusually large amount of net play. Whoever is able to dominate the net should be able to control the match, making it a key battle in this match.
Both players have defeated some big names over the course of this week and this could be a tight affair. Barty though has been especially ruthless, winning four 6-0 sets over accomplished players. The Australian looks all set to win her second WTA title. Barty to win in three sets.
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