De Minaur, Kvitova bag Sydney titles

SYDNEY — Australia’s Alex De Minaur and Petra Kvitova bagged titles at the Sydeny International Tennis Tournament here Saturday.

Petra Kvitova outlasted Ashleigh Barty in a final-set tiebreak to win the crown here for the second time, while De Minaur won two matches in a day to claim his first career ATP title.

The Czech 2015 champion and fifth seed fought back from dropping the first set and an early break in the final set to beat the top-ranked Aussie, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7/3) in two hours 19 minutes.

It was a gutsy performance from the two-time Wimbledon champion who only finished her semifinal against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the early hours of Saturday.

De Minaur, 19 and ranked 29, conquered the fresher Italian Andreas Seppi 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) in the final after overcoming Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-2 in a rain-postponed semifinal earlier in the day.

De Minaur’s triumph made him the youngest winner of the Sydney tournament since his mentor Lleyton Hewitt claimed it as a 19-year-old in 2001.

Sydney-born De Minaur is the first Australian champion at the 134-year tournament since Bernard Tomic in 2013.

“It’s crazy that this actually happened,” De Minaur told the crowd shortly after his victory.

“I thought it wouldn’t happen. Third time lucky, and you guys don’t know how much it means to do it in front of all you guys, in front of my home.”

In his second straight Sydney final, the fifth seed won 75 percent of first-serve points to improve on his runner-up finish to Russian Daniil Medvedev last year.

De Minaur has soared 208 places to 29 in the ATP Rankings and was named ATP Newcomer of the Year after earning 28 tour-level victories throughout his 2018 campaign.

After conceding a break of serve in the opening game of the match, De Minaur leveled the opening set at 3-3.

The first set appeared to be heading toward a tie-break until De Minaur broke in the 12th game, attacking Seppi’s forehand to force errors and earn short balls in return from his opponent.

Seppi was again the first to strike in the second set.

The Italian earned his first break point of the set before capitalizing on a De Minaur double-fault to lead 4-3.

But the Australian youngster broke back for 4-4 as Seppi made consecutive groundstroke errors.

In the tie-break, De Minaur recovered from a mini-break down three times, before clinching the title on his first championship point as Seppi netted a backhand.

Kvitova had beaten Barty both the previous times they played, including in the Birmingham final in 2017, but she had to dig deep to win her eighth straight final, coming back from an 0-3 deficit in the final set.

Kvitova prevailed despite her serve being broken six times in the match but she finished with 31 winners to Barty’s 23.

Barty raced through the opening set after breaking the big-serving Kvitova in the first game on back-to-back double faults.

Kvitova began to hit her spots with her powerful groundstrokes in the second set and broke Barty for 6-5 and then served out the set in the next game with a backhand winner that clipped the back of the baseline on her second set point.

Barty broke early to lead 3-0 in the final set, but Kvitova broke back in the fifth game to level at 3-3.

Barty saved four break points in the ninth game but with the break in hand, Kvitova couldn’t serve out the match.

She broke again in the 11th game but began to struggle physically and back-to-back double faults took the deciding set to a tiebreak.

The Czech fired a running cross-court forehand winner on match point to claim her 26th career title and a sixth WTA title in the past 12 months. — AFP