Ashleigh Barty

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Stephens, Kerber headline WTA Elite Trophy field

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ZHUHAI, China — A year after finishing the season as the No. 1-ranked player in the world, Angelique Kerber will be playing at the WTA Elite Trophy with an eye on 2018.

Kerber won the Australian Open and U.S. Open last year, but has struggled in 2017 and has dropped to No. 19.

“I’m not trying to look back at the year. I’m trying to look ahead and trying to end the year as well as I can by putting everything on the court, winning as many as matches as I can and going to my holidays with a good feeling,” Kerber said. “It’s a tough tournament but it’s an opportunity to get better, have good competition and maybe also going with a good feeling to next season.”

The WTA Elite Trophy is a round-robin tournament for the top players who failed to qualify for the WTA Finals. The tournament splits 12 players in four groups of three, with the group winners reaching the semifinals.

Kerber is in a group with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ashleigh Barty.

Other players at the tournament include U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, who is in a group with Anastasija Sevastova and Barbora Strycova.

“I just want to compete well because obviously every match is really important,” Stephens said. “I just hope to play well and get in a few matches out there.”

In the other groups, it’s: CoCo Vandeweghe, Peng Shuai and Elena Vesnina; and Julia Goerges, Kristina Mladenovic and Magdalena Rybarikova.

The 12 players at the tournament won a combined 11 WTA singles titles in 2017.

Garcia wins Wuhan Open for first title of year

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WUHAN, China — Unseeded Caroline Garcia of France won her first title of the year on Saturday, beating Ashleigh Barty 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the Wuhan Open final.

“A title is the best, it’s the best thing you can have in tennis. A big one or a small one, it doesn’t matter,” said Garcia, who clinched her fourth career title.

The 20th-ranked Garcia, playing her first final of 2017, struck first by breaking Barty’s serve in the seventh game and holding the next to take a 5-3 lead. Barty easily held her serve and broke back for 5-5. Neither player could then hold their serve and Barty won the tiebreaker.

The second set saw both players struggling for consistency in their serves and trading breaks. Barty’s sliced backhand caused her Australian opponent some problems and she served twice for the set but was unable to close. It was Garcia’s turn to win the tiebreaker.

Garcia went 3-1 up in the decider and gained another break before taking the title with a stunning serve.

“I feel this where I belong,” said 37th-ranked Barty, who beat French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the semifinals. “I’ve had a fantastic year so far.”

Ostapenko downs Muguruza to reach Wuhan semis

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WUHAN, China — French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko beat Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the Wuhan Open quarterfinals on Thursday.

Ostapenko came from a break down in the deciding set, winning the last five games to beat Muguruza for the first time and a world No. 1 for the first time.

“I just beat No. 1 and it’s amazing,” Ostapenko said.

No. 4-ranked Karolina Pliskova also lost from a set up, falling to Ashleigh Barty of Australia who beat a top-five player for the first time 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2).

Barty will meet Ostapenko, the only seed to reach the semifinals. The other semi features Caroline Garcia of France and qualifier Maria Sakkari of Greece.