Australian No.1 Ashleigh Barty is hoping to end best season of her young career on a high at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, when she makes her debut at the season-ending showcase.
Barty recently took over from Samantha Stosur at Australia’s top player after a spectacular year in singles and doubles, which saw her qualify for the WTA Finals in doubles with fellow Australian Casey Dellacqua as well as qualifying in singles for the 12-player elite field in Zhuhai.
The 21-year-old’s achievements are all the more remarkable given that she only returned to competitive tennis in May 2016 after taking a break from the sport for 19 months - a spell which saw her briefly take up semi-professional cricket. Within a year of returning to the sport, Barty won her first WTA Tour title in Kuala Lumpur and did not look back.
She reached the third round of the Australian Open in January and the third round of the US Open in the autumn, before a breakthrough week at the WTA Premier 5 Wuhan Open in late September, where she reached the final on the back of a string of giant-killing wins before losing to Caroline Garcia in a closely fought title match.
The WTA Elite Trophy, which begins on Tuesday October 31, will see Barty compete alongside US Open champion Sloane Stephens and 2016 Australian Open winner Angelique Kerber, as well as in-form players such a Julia Goerges and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, both of whom have won WTA Tour titles in recent weeks.
QUOTES FROM ASHLEIGH BARTY:
On her season:
“It’s been a very special year. To finish my year in Zhuhuai will be really exciting. I’ve had the best year of my career, no doubt, and to stay happy and healthy throughout it all has been really good too.”
On qualifying for Zhuhai:
“At the start of the year, these year-end events are a really long way away. With Zhuhai, for me it wasn’t on the calendar until Wuhan a few weeks ago. It just shows that if you play the full season then you give yourself a chance right to the end. It’s just really exciting to finish the year on a high with two great year-end events in Singapore and Zhuhai.”
On Wuhan, where she reached the final and beat a string of top players:
“In my mind and in my coach’s mind, my team’s mind, it was my best week of tennis in my life by far. Being able to back it up match after match after match was amazing. It took a lot out of me but it was a really good week and it set us up for the last couple of weeks of the year. Now we’re refreshed and ready to go and ready to finish off the year in Singapore and hopefully with a good week in Zhuhai as well.”
The full singles field for Zhuhai is below. The doubles competition also gets underway in Zhuhai on Tuesday and features six pairings playing in a round robin format. The teams are:
1 Raluca Olaru (ROM) and Olga Savchuk (UKR)
2 Alicja Rosolska (POL) and Anna Smith (GBR)
3 Shuai Zhang (CHN) and Jing-Jing Lu (CHN)
4 Ying-Ying Duan (HN) and Xinyun Dan (CHN)
WC Zhaoxuan Yang (CHN) and Chen Liang (CHN)
WC Qianhiu Tang (CHN) and Xinyu Jiang (CHN)