Top Of The Tour: Barty Dominant In Winning Western & Southern Open Title

Ashleigh Barty (photo: @CincyTennis/Twitter)

MASON, OHIO/WASHINGTON, August 22, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

It should come as no surprise that World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty found herself playing for the title of the Western & Southern Open in the Cincinnati suburbs on Sunday afternoon. After all, she was the top seed and, round by round, played solid tennis on the fast hard courts at the Lindner Family Tennis Center without dropping a set in her first four matches.

Barty’s 39th victory during Saturday’s semifinal round lifted her into the lead for most wins on the WTA tour, and advanced the Aussie into her sixth title match of the season, with a desire to add to the titles she’s won at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne, the Miami Open, the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart and the Wimbledon Championships. This year, Barty has been versatile enough to win titles on clay, grass and hard courts – and she’s been nearly unbeatable on hard surfaces, going 9-1 in her last 10 before the title match against 76th-ranked Jil Teichmann of Switzerland.

Out of the blue, Teichmann became the biggest surprise of the tournament, going from wild card entrant to finalist. Earlier during the tournament, the Barcelona-born, Swiss No. 3 knocked off in order World No. 2 Naomi Osaka, 12th-ranked Belinda Bencic and World No. 4 Karolina Pliskova in order to reach the biggest final of her career, a WTA 1000. Only Osaka took a set off Teichmann, whose all-court game and hustle made her a fan favorite.

The lefty Teichmann’s 6-2, 6-4 take down of Pliskova Saturday evening was impressive – eight aces and 27 winners – and it improved her record to 4-0 against Top 10 competition this year. It was her third consecutive win over a Top 20 player and lifted her into her WTA tour final of the year. Could she add to her impressive showing and beat Barty? The odds were against it but she would certainly give it her best shot.

Meeting for the first time, Barty had all the familiar tools and weapons – backhand slice and drop shots – going for her and she used them to convincingly beat Teichmann 6-3, 6-1 in one hour and 13 minutes, ending the Swiss player’s remarkable and enjoyable run. Barty won with variety and experience – and showed why she’s the No. 1-ranked player in the world and the top of the tour.

Barty, who finished with 28 winners to 21 unforced errors, dominated on her service games. She hit eight aces and won 86 percent (18 of 21) of her first-serve points. Barty, who was broken just once and faced only two break-points on her serve, outpointed her opponent 63-42. Teichmann finished with two aces and hit 12 winners and made 26 unforced errors.

Barty said before the match, “It’s a new challenge for me, a new challenge for her, and one I think we both look forward to.” She admitted that Teichmann has “the ability to move and run and defend,” and the 24-year-old Swiss challenger did just that.

“She’s got a great slice backhand, and she’s got aridity off her forehand,” Barty added. “She can flatten it out if she wants to or she can flip it up and change the tempo of the match. She had a great start to the year. I think she struggled with her body and a few injuries throughout the middle section, but she’s got a hell of a game that’s able to disrupt opponents.”

On serve through the first seven games of the match, Barty got the first break after Teichmann netted a backhand that ended an 11-shot rally. Then, Barty found a way, thanks to her speed, to save a drop shot that Teichmann placed perfectly in the right front corner on the 15th shot of an exciting and entertaining back-and-forth exchange. Finally, Barty’s fourth ace – and 16th winner – closed out the 35-minute first set in her favor 6-3.

Next, Barty began the second set by breaking Teichmann’s serve right away and consolidated the break to take a commanding 2-0 lead. She broke Teichmann, again, to increase her advantage to 3-0 – her sixth game win in a row – as the match reached the one-hour mark, and the Swiss took a medical time out to get treatment on her heavily-bandaged right foot.

After Barty consolidated her second break of the second set to widen her lead further to 4-0, she immediately broke Teichmann for a third time in the set that gave her an insurmountable 5-0 advantage after having won eight straight games. With the championship on Barty’s racquet, Teichmann wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel. She earned her first break of the match to prevent getting bageled. However, Barty responded in the next game and broke Teichmann one last time – her fifth in 14 opportunities – and closed out the title victory on her first match-point opportunity after Teichmann abruptly ended a terse three shot rally with a forehand long. Both competitors shared a friendly handshake at the net.

During the trophy ceremony, Barty deflected attention on herself and praised Teichmann. “What a week, mate!” she said. “This is where you belong, this is your level. It’s so nice to see you play your best tennis this week. I know over the next few years, you’ll win many of these.”

Then, Barty praised the enthusiasm of the crowd that flocked all week to the Lindner Family Tennis Center to watch her play after the tournament was moved last year to New York due to the coronavirus pandemic. “It was so nice to play out in front of you, again,” she said. “I’ve seen so many smiling people enjoying tennis. It genuinely reminded how much I love the sport. Thank you so much for coming out and making it such a joy for us players.”

Later, during an interview with Tennis Channel, Barty said this week provided her with a great preparation for the US Open, which begins in a week. “It was great coming into Cincinnati, enjoying the conditions and adapting to playing on the hard courts again, and getting a few matches under my belt,” she said. “I think being able to come through and play a clean week and walk away with the title is probably not what I really expected of myself but certainly it’s nice to come here and fight this week.”

By the numbers

The Western & Southern title victory was Ashleigh Barty’s 40th of the season and improved her 2021 win-loss record to 40-7, including 14-1 versus Top 20 opponents. It was her 13th WTA career singles title.