Ash Barty wins Yarra Valley Classic, Russia lift ATP Cup on eve of Australian Open

Top-ranked Ash Barty cashed in on her first championship point in the Yarra Valley Classic and Daniil Medvedev clinched the ATP Cup title for Russia within seconds of each other Sunday, as the six tune-up tournaments for the Australian Open culminated the eve of the year’s first major.

Barty claimed her second WTA on home soil – just over a year after her first – with a 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over sixth-seeded Garbine Muguruza, last year’s Australian Open runner-up.

She did so in front of small clusters of spectators at Margaret Court Arena. Still, it was 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, up to 30,000 fans are expected at Melbourne Park.

“For us, this is what makes the magic happen,” Barty told the crowd on Sunday. “I’m so grateful you can be here making it extra special for us,” she added. “See ya next week.”

Muguruza had dropped only 10 games – never more than two in a set – in her previous four straight-set victories at the tournament, including a 6-2, 6-2 quarter-final win over 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.

The two-time major winner got the first break of serve to lead 3-1 before Barty broke back. Muguruza broke again and had a chance to serve for the first set, before Barty went on a roll.

The Australian star used her slice backhand and drop shots to keep Muguruza moving around the court, mixed some powerful forehands with variety and clinched the match with a lob.

At Rod Laver Arena, world No 4 Daniil Medvedev improved his winning streak to 14 matches and secured Russia’s 2-0 win over Italy in the ATP Cup final after beating Matteo Berrettini 6-4, 6-2.

Andrey Rublev had given Russia a commanding start with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini.

Russia did not lose a singles match during the group stage or the playoffs, and is the second team to win the ATP Cup after Novak Djokovic led Serbia to the inaugural title last year.

Teammates this week, Medvedev and Rublev could meet in the Australian Open quarterfinals. Both men said getting there would suggest they are in good form.

Medvedev has won his past 10 matches against top-10 players, including the top three at the ATP Finals last year and a close victory over Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals here.

Barty will get Monday off as the bottom half of the women’s draw kick off proceedings. Those in action include Serena Williams, who begins another bid for a record 24th grand slam singles title, world No 3 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 world No 3 Dominic Thiem – last year’s runner-up– opening against Mikhail Kukushkin.