Tennis: Barty sends Australian Open warning by clinching Adelaide title

Ash Barty returns a serve during her match against Elena Rybakina at the Adelaide International, on Jan 9, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

(AFP) - World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty showed why she is the Australian Open favourite when she demolished Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina in the final of the Adelaide International on Sunday (Jan 9).

Barty took just 64 minutes to see off seventh seed Rybakina 6-3, 6-2 and claim the 14th singles title of her career.

The 25-year-old Australian has been in superb form this week and has had to beat a host of top players in a stacked top half of the draw.

She received a first-round bye, but then faced Coco Gauff (world No. 22), Sofia Kenin (12) and Iga Swiatek (9) on her way to the decider.

“The work that I do with my team behind the scenes puts me in the best possible position to play good tennis time, and time again each and every time we’re asked,” Barty told reporters. “I certainly feel pretty good coming into the summer.

“I feel good leading up to an Australian Open like I have every year. Each and every preparation is unique, each and every preparation is different.

“So we take it for what comes and what it is, move on, try and do the best that we can in every opportunity, whether that’s here in Adelaide or it’s in Melbourne.”

Against the big-serving Rybakina, the world No. 14, Barty dominated every aspect of play and took control of the match midway through the first set.

Both players started well, dropping only two points each on serve in their first three games, so it came as a surprise when at 3-3, Barty stumbled slightly and found herself at 15-40.

But Rybakina was unable to convert either break point and Barty made her pay.

She held her serve then pounced immediately as Rybakina seemed to lose focus, breaking and then holding to love to take the first set in 29 minutes.

Barty was in complete control by this stage as she went on a run of seven straight games.

She broke Rybakina's first two service games of the second set to take a stranglehold on the match as she raced away to a 4-0 lead.

As against Swiatek in the semi-finals, Barty's range of stroke-making confounded Rybakina, who struggled to cope with the sliced backhand in particular.

She was forced to go for big winners rather than try to out-rally the Australian, and made 26 unforced errors as a result.

Barty's serve has also improved and on the few times she was under pressure, she was able to serve her way out of trouble.

Both women will now head to the Sydney Classic, the final warm-up before the Jan 17-30 Australian Open, where they are drawn to meet in the quarter-finals.

But before then, Barty will play in the doubles final alongside fellow Australian Storm Sanders, where they will take on Darija Jurak Schreiber and Andreja Klepac.

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