(Reuters) – World number one Ash Barty said her tennis had reached a new level during a “phenomenal” week in Stuttgart where she pulled off three successive comeback wins to claim her second title on clay.
The Australian, who turned 25 on Saturday, defeated fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka 3-6 6-0 6-3 in the final to hoist her third WTA trophy this season and cement her place at the top of the rankings.
The Sabalenka win followed victories over fourth seed Elina Svitolina and sixth seed Karolina Pliskova after conceding the first set in each.
“This week has been phenomenal for me,” Barty said in her post-match media conference.
“We’ve played a lot of tennis, a lot of matches.
“And I’ve certainly felt like I’m taking my tennis to kind of a new level, in a sense of being able to be calm and play with freedom and play without consequence in a way, just going out there and try to bring my best every single point.”
Barty’s decision to stay home during the pandemic-blighted 2020 season rather than rejoin the Tour appears to have paid off, with the Australian returning to the kind of form that led to the 2019 French Open title and world number one ranking.
Although suffering a surprise defeat to 25th seed Karolina Muchova in the Australian Open quarter-finals and a first-round exit at the Adelaide International in February, Barty caught fire after departing home shores, defending her Miami Open title three weeks ago.
Sabalenka was her 10th successive win over top-10 opponents dating back to her 2019 WTA Finals title in Shenzhen.
Barty capped a stellar week at the WTA 500 event in Stuttgart by teaming up with American Brady to win the doubles, beating top seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
“Tennis is a strange sport at times,” Barty said. “Even though you can be a set down, I didn’t feel I was very far off.
“I think it’s important to just continue to work in the right direction, try to do right things … And if you don’t (get the result), you just keep going for the next time.
“I think that’s a massively important attitude to have.”
The WTA Tour continues at the Madrid Open this week.
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