Ashleigh Barty wins WTA Finals title to complete career-best season in style

World No 1 defeats Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-3 in the Shenzhen final

Ashleigh Barty of Australia poses with her winning trophy on stage after defeating Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the WTA Finals Tennis Tournament at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center in Shenzhen, China's Guangdong province, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
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Ashleigh Barty lived up to her top ranking by winning the WTA Finals title in Shenzhen on Sunday with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over defending champion Elina Svitolina.

Barty, 23, has enjoyed a career-best season filled with numerous firsts, most notably a first grand slam title - achieved at the French Open - before rising to world No 1 for the first time.

Now the Australian has added another career first by ending her losing streak against Svitolina at the sixth attempt to bring an end to the Ukrainian's nine-match winning run at this event.

In the process, Barty claimed a record-setting $4.42 million (Dh16.2m) pay cheque - the largest sum ever awarded in either men's or women's tennis.

Barty's only loss was to late replacement Kiki Bertens and she became the fifth debutant to win the lucrative round-robin tournament. She follows in the footsteps of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, and Dominika Cibulkova in winning the Finals on her first visit.

"It's been the most incredible year for me," Barty said after the match.

Svitolina has not won a trophy since claiming the WTA Finals in Singapore last year, which remains the biggest title of her career. She had lost just one set before the final to be on track to claim a maximum prize of $4.725m before falling short in the decider.

The Ukrainian had taken a liking to the slow indoor hard court, which has been criticised by other players, with her methodical counterpunching overwhelming opponents - but she was thwarted by an irresistible Barty.

"It definitely was a great week for me," Svitolina said. "(Barty) had a great tournament and an amazing year."

Both players, who served strongly in Shenzhen, comfortably held service until Barty faced trouble in the ninth game, but she saved a break point and dug deep when it mattered most to fend off Svitolina's relentless defensive prowess.

An increasingly confident Barty then attacked Svitolina's serve in the 10th game and claimed the set with a sizzling forehand winner.

The Ukrainian hit back early in the second set and was gifted a break in the third game through a Barty double fault but could not consolidate on serve.

Svitolina's title defence appeared in tatters when she double faulted to lose serve in the sixth game but courageously broke back.

The see-saw continued when Barty captured another break in a gruelling eighth game before serving it out to cap off a momentous season.

Barty's season is set to continue when she spearheads Australia's Fed Cup title hopes against France in the final on November 9-10.

Svitolina, meanwhile, admitted she was disappointed to end the season without a title - a season in which she recovered from a two-month injury absence to finish strong with semi-final appearances at both Wimbledon and the US Open.

"It hurts to have the opportunity to be so close to get so much," Svitolina said. "But in the end it's not about the money, it's about the title actually."

It was the first WTA Finals played in Shenzhen after a five-year run in Singapore and the competition will be based in the southern Chinese city until 2028. The event's move to China was highlighted by an eye-watering total prize pool of $14m.