Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty will remain the leader of the pack on the WTA Race after reaching the final in Beijing, completing two solid weeks in Asia as she previously advanced into the semis in Wuhan. The Aussie lost to Aryna Sabalenka a week ago, hoping for an even better run at the last Premier Mandatory event of the season in the Chinese capital where she defeated Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens en route to the final where Naomi Osaka prevailed over her in three sets.
Overall, Barty is pleased with the way she competed during the Asian swing, eager to repeat that at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen at the end of October. With points from Beijing, Ashleigh is still the leader of the WTA Race and the top contender to finish the season as the year-end no.
1 for the first time in a career. In the title match in Beijing, Osaka toppled Barty 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 50 minutes, beating the Aussie for the second time in four encounters. Naomi took charge after dropping the first set, dropping 15 points on serve in sets two and three and fending off three out of four break chances offered to Barty to cross the finish line first.
Ashleigh couldn't repeat those numbers in her games, suffering three breaks from seven opportunities given to Naomi and losing the edge in the decider to finish runner-up. After four great holds at the beginning of the encounter, Barty fended off a break point in the fifth game and stole Osaka's serve in the next game when the Japanese netted a backhand.
The Aussie erased another break opportunity in the seventh game and closed the opener with two aces in game nine for a 6-3. Naomi raised her level in set number two, losing six points in five service games and securing a break at 3-2 after a loose forehand from Barty, closing the set with a service winner at 5-3 and gathering the momentum ahead of the decider where she broke in the very first game after forcing an error from Barty.
Serving at 2-4, Ashleigh got broken at love following a backhand error, allowing Osaka to seal the deal in the next game and celebrate the third title of the season and the second in three weeks.
"I think it was a high-quality clash, there were times where I was really doing the right things, and it came down to a little bit of execution," Barty said.
"It's never easy playing a pure ball-striker like Naomi but it was a bloody good effort overall. At times, her serve was great and she hit her spots really well, taking me out of it a little bit, we all know that's a major weapon for her.
I didn't get a lot of help from sterile and cold conditions where I couldn't bring in as much variety and get the ball out of her hip pocket as much as I would have liked to. Overall it's been a great week; I have no regrets.
You can't make semis and finals week by week and it is important to celebrate good results but also keep the head down and stay strong for a couple more weeks, another month or so towards the end of this season. We're really looking forward to it, we have a massive couple of weeks coming up, and it's all about preparing for that."