Barty back with a tournament win; Russia win ATP Cup

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MELBOURNE: Ash Barty didn’t play competitive tennis in almost a year. It seems like she didn’t miss a beat.

Top-ranked Barty cashed in on her first championship point against Garbine Muguruza in the Yarra Valley Classic and Daniil Medvedev clinched the ATP Cup title for Russia within seconds of each other Sunday as the tune-up tournaments for the Australian Open were culminating the eve of the years first major.

After a hectic preparation, which included 14-day quarantines under strict Covid-19 pandemic regulations for the 1,200 or so players, coaches and staff who flew in for the Australian Open, the warmup week of tournaments was being capped with five finals and two semi-finals.

Barty kicked it off by claiming her second WTA on home soil just over a year after her first with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 win over sixth-seeded Muguruza, the Australian Open runner-up last year.

There were small clusters of spectators at Margaret Court Arena to watch Barty’s final. Still, that’s more of a crowd than most players have been accustomed to seeing at their matches during the pandemic. On Monday, when the Australian Open starts, there’s expected to be up to 30,000 fans at Melbourne Park.

Barty will get the day off on Monday because the bottom half of the Australian Open women’s draw will be played on the first day, featuring Serena Williams starting another bid for a record 24th Grand Slam singles title, third-ranked Naomi Osaka and second-ranked Simona Halep.

The top half of the men’s draw is set for Monday, with Novak Djokovic starting his quest for a third consecutive Australian Open title with a first-round match against Jeremy Chardy and third-ranked Dominic Thiem, the runner-up here last year, opening against Mikhail Kukushkin.

At Rod Laver Arena, fourth-ranked Daniil Medvedev improved his winning streak to 14 matches and secured Russia’s 2-0 win over Italy in the ATP Cup final when he beat Matteo Berrettini 6-4, 6-2. Andrey Rublev had given Russia a commanding start with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini.

Elise Mertens of Belgium beat Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 6-1 in 71 minutes in the final of the Gippsland Trophy.

Estonia’s Annett Kontaveit beat Greece’s Maria Sakkari 2-6, 6-3, 11-9 in the first semi-final of the Grampians Trophy, while 20-year-old American world number 99 Ann Li upset 24the-ranked Jennifer Brady 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (7-5), 10-6 in the other.

After Thursday’s play was lost over the emergence of a coronavirus case, the schedule became too tight to play the final of the Grampians Trophy, which had been organised to give match practice to players who had endured hard quarantine.

Briton Dan Evans captured his first ATP Tour title with a commanding 6-2, 6-3 win against Felix Auger-Aliassime in the Murray River Open final, while Italian teenager Jannik Sinner bagged the second of his short career by beating compatriot Stefano Travaglia 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 in the Great Ocean Road Open final.