Tennis: Ashleigh Barty caps dream season with WTA Finals title and historic $6 million payout

 Australia's Ashleigh Barty poses with a trophy as she celebrates after winning the final against Ukraine's Elina Svitolina on Nov 3, 2019.
Australia's Ashleigh Barty poses with a trophy as she celebrates after winning the final against Ukraine's Elina Svitolina on Nov 3, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

SHENZHEN (DPA) - Ashleigh Barty earned the biggest pay cheque in tennis history on Sunday (Nov 3) in Shenzhen as she toppled defending champion Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-3 to lift the WTA Finals trophy on her tournament singles debut.

Barty claimed her first victory over Svitolina in six meetings and became the first Australian to win the WTA Finals since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.

The Queenslander pocketed US$4.42 million (S$6 million) for her efforts this week - an unprecedented prize pot awarded to a tournament winner across both the men's and women's tours.

“It’s been the most incredible year for me,” she said. “It’s been an incredible new era in women’s tennis and to play in front of this spectacular crowd has been amazing.”

After saving a break point in game nine, Barty upped the pressure on the Svitolina serve and converted her third set point to inch ahead.

Svitolina broke early in the second but Barty took three games on the trot for a 4-2 lead.

The defending champion would not relent though and responded with a break. Barty produced some tremendous all-court tennis to break for 5-3, and served out the contest to love to secure the title.

She is the fifth player overall - and first since Dominika Cibulkova in 2016 - to clinch the WTA Finals crown on her maiden appearance.

Shenzhen is hosting the season finale for the first time, as part of a 10-year residency

Hungary’s Timea Babos won the doubles title for the third year in a row, partnering with Kristina Mladenovic from France to see off Barbora Strycova and Hsieh Su-wei 6-1 6-3 in the final.

“We played some great tennis,” said Babos. “There was no-one out there on this tournament who could beat us. That’s really amazing.

“Of course, to share it with Kiki, to play on the biggest stage with her, to get the title together, it’s an incredible story.

“I’m just really, really happy to lift that trophy again.”

Barty, who secured the year-end No. 1 ranking earlier in the week, leads the tour this season with 56 match-wins, four titles (tied with Karolina Pliskova), and 12 top-10 victories.

While her WTA season is now over, Barty can still make further history next week when she leads the Australian squad in the Fed Cup final in Perth against France.

Victory for the hosts would give Australia a first Fed Cup title since 1974.