Angelique Kerber has announced her return to top form in emphatic style with victory at the Sydney International.
The former world No.1 was too strong for Australian Ash Barty in Saturday’s final, winning 6-4 6-4.
The victory delivered Kerber her first title since the US Open in 2016, and sees her continue her unbeaten start to this season; she’s currently riding a nine-match winning streak.
“It feels longer than one year, actually, but it feels very good to being back, first of all, here in Sydney and winning the first title of my first tournament this year,” Kerber said.
“I had a great week. I played good tennis. The final against Ash was not easy, but I was able to play my game in important moments. So I’m really happy and proud to win the first title in 2018.”
Kerber scored the first break of the match for a 3-2 lead, an advantage she would not relinquish as she went on to pocket the opening set.
Barty’s coach Craig Tyzzer came out on court after the first set, reminding the young Aussie who she was up against.
“She’s as tough as nails when you get your nose in front in a game,” he said. “You can’t relax then.”
It looked dire for Barty when she immediately surrendered serve in second set, but in the second game she broke back to level at 1-1, igniting the packed crowd.
Kerber and Barty went game for game until the seventh, when Kerber broke the deadlock after a loose game from Barty during which the Aussie surrendered serve to love with a forehand into the net.
With the break in hand and a 4-3 lead, the German didn’t falter, remaining aggressive yet solid and serving out the match three games later to win her first title in Sydney after falling in the 2014 final.
It is her 11th career WTA title and positions her as a favourite for next fortnight’s Australian Open.
“Angie is on fire. She’s such a competitor and makes you work so hard for each point,” Barty said.
“I felt like it was a pretty good level. To be honest, I felt like I probably played some of the better tennis that I have this week. I certainly felt like it was a pretty good level for a final, especially.
“I felt like … a couple of cheap games cost me, and Angie is going to put you away when you do that.”
Kerber said that although it was early in the season, she was displaying shades of the form that took her to two Grand Slam titles in 2016.
“I think I’m getting closer to this (level) again and just trying to focusing from match to match and trying to play again my tennis like I played the last years, especially 2016,” she said.
“It’s great that the year start so well, especially here in Australia and Sydney.”