Tue, Jun 25, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Taiwan’s Hsieh claims doubles title

THIRD SUCCESS:Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova added the Birmingham title to their victories in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in February and Madrid last month

By Dave Carroll  /  Staff reporter, with Reuters

Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei, right, and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic prepare to receive in the Nature Valley Classic women’s doubles final at Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham, England, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei on Sunday claimed her third doubles title of the season at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, England, while Ashleigh Barty became the first Australian in 43 years to climb to the top of the world rankings after she won the singles title

Second seeds Hsieh and Barbora Strycova outlasted fourth seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Demi Schuurs 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 10-8 in 1 hour, 49 minutes in a rain-interrupted doubles final that had to be completed indoors.

The Taiwanese-Czech duo saved five of nine break points and converted five of 13, winning 54 percent of points on their second serve to add the Birmingham title to their victories in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in February and Madrid last month.

The victory improved their career record over the German-Dutch duo to 2-0 after a straight-sets quarter-final victory on their way to the title in Dubai.

In the singles final, 23-year-old Barty beat Germany’s Julia Goerges 6-3, 7-5, knocking Japan’s Naomi Osaka off the summit when the new rankings were released yesterday.

“It’s been the most incredible journey for me and my team,” Barty said on court after a standing ovation from the crowd and a warm hug from her doubles partner Goerges. “You always dream about [being world No. 1] as a little kid, but for it to become a reality it’s incredible and not something that was even in my realm, we were aiming for top 10 this year.”

Barty’s route to the top has been nothing if not an unconventional one.

The former junior Wimbledon champion took an indefinite break from tennis at the end of 2014, recently citing mental health issues as the reason, and played Big Bash cricket for Brisbane Heat before returning to the sport in 2016.

Since then her rise has been remarkable.

“We started from scratch three-and-a-half years ago without a ranking and now to be where we are is a massive achievement for me and my team,” said Barty, whose return has been overseen by coach Craig Tyzzer.

She won the Miami title this year to break into the top 10 for the first time, then this month she became the first Australian woman to win the French Open for 46 years.

Now she has become the 27th woman to reach No. 1 since WTA rankings were introduced in 1975.

“She is a truly impressive person and deserves every success that comes her way. I couldn’t be prouder to be her coach,” Tyzzer told the WTA Web site. “Over the last three years, Ash has grown as a person and as a player. What has stayed constant is her genuine, humble and respectful nature.”

Despite the prize at stake, Barty looked calm and composed in the final against Goerges, just as she did when beating Marketa Vondrousova in the Roland Garros final two weeks previously.

Her only moment of concern was when she faced a set point at 4-5 in the second set, but in true champion style she fired an ace.

Two games later a Goerges error confirmed Barty’s coronation and the end of Osaka’s 21-week stay at the summit.

The last Australian woman to reach the No. 1 ranking was Evonne Goolagong in 1976, although it only came to light 31 years later after the discovery of an error in the records.

Like Goolagong, Barty is also proud of her indigenous Australian heritage, with her father having Ngarigo ancestry through one of his grandmothers.

“I’m a little bit speechless, it’s been a whirlwind few weeks to be honest and to be able to follow in the footsteps of Evonne and even [get] mentioned in the same sentence is incredible,” said Barty, who will be the top seed at Wimbledon. “What she has done for our sport and Australians all around the world, she put us on the map, and what she has done for indigenous Australians is remarkable.”

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