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Sabalenka vs Barty tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Sabalenka opens WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai campaign against Barty

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 29 Oct 2018
  • Aryna Sabalenka takes on Ashleigh Barty at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai on Tuesday
  • Sabalenka vs Barty is live from Zhuhai on Tuesday at 2pm local/6am GMT
Aryna Sabalenka (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Breakthrough star Aryna Sabalenka begins her WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai campaign with an intriguing clash against Ashleigh Barty.

The final WTA Tour event of 2018 starts with a bang as powerful Aryna Sabakenka faces off with the multi-skilled Ashleigh Barty on Tuesday at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai.

The WTA Tour’s second-tier season-ending championships always suffers from following the week after the WTA Finals Singapore (a situation reportedly set to be rectified in 2019) but the field for the 2018 edition is so intriguing it can’t be ignored: 12 players, from top seed and world no. 10 Daria Kasatkina to wildcard and world no. 36 Zhang Shuai, facing off in round-robin groups of three players with the top player from each group advancing to the semifinals.

The tournament begins on Tuesday with third seed Sabalenka taking on Barty – the first clash in the ‘Orchid’ Group which also features Caroline Garcia.

Aryna Sabalenka (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) 
Sabalenka crowns a year of ‘firsts’ – first WTA Tour title, first wins over top-10 players, first Grand Slam second week reached, etc – with her first appearance in Zhuhai, but it’s been such an extraordinary season for the 20-year-old Belarusian that she was in contention to reach the WTA Finals Singapore almost until the very end of the Race. 

I’ve written so much about Sabalenka over the past couple of months, but the meteoric rise of the powerful Belarusian has been one of the biggest storylines over the second half of the WTA Tour season and it seems only fitting that she should be one of the main highlights of the field at the last event of the year. 

Ranked world no. 96 at this time of the year in 2017, when she was competing at (and ultimately winning) the WTA 125k event in Mumbai, Sabalenka comes into Zhuhai ranked world no. 12 after a quiet first five months of 2018, highlighted by reaching her second WTA Tour final in Lugano where she finished runner-up to fellow Zhuhai combatant Elise Mertens, gave way to a torrent of successes. The turning point seemed to come when Sabalenka started working with ex-ATP World Tour pro Dmitry Tursunov, serving notice of the accomplishments to come when she reached the final of the Premier-level Eastbourne event, getting her first win over a top-10 player when she beat Karolina Pliskova before losing to Caroline Wozniacki. 

Although she lost in the first round of Wimbledon to Mihaela Buzarnescu and lost in the first round of qualifying for San Jose to world no. 258 Maria Sanchez, the rest of 2018 would consist of almost unadulterated – and unprecedented – success for Sabalenka, who compiled a 24-6 record (7-1 vs top-10 players) from Montreal to Tianjin. 

A brief recap of that timespan: Sabalenka won the first WTA Tour titles of her career at the Premier-5 level Wuhan Open and the Premier-level Connecticut Open in New Haven; made the semifinals of the Premier-5 Cincinnati event; reached the quarterfinals of Beijing and Tianjin, and reached the fourth round of the US Open, where she was only stopped by a stellar and determined performance from eventual champion Naomi Osaka (but not before Sabalenka became the only player to take a set from Osaka on her way to the title).

Now up to world no. 12, Sabalenka has guaranteed that everybody will be looking out for her name in the draw at every big event in 2019 (not to mention setting a sky-high bar for herself to clear) – but before she can start thinking about next year, she’s got the opportunity to win one last impressive title of 2018 in Zhuhai.

Sabalenka’s first opponent in Zhuhai, Ashleigh Barty, is making her second appearance at the WTA Elite Trophy, having reached the semifinals in 2017 – and in many respects, Sabalenka is now where Barty was 12 months ago. 

Ashleigh Barty
Barty shot up the rankings from world no. 271 to world no. 20 in 2017, an incredible rise given that she hadn’t even played a full season since returning from her early-career sabbatical and one which included a first WTA Tour title in Kuala Lumpur and runner-up finishes in Birmingham and Wuhan. For Barty, therefore, 2018 has been all about consolidating those gains – something she’s done very well, given that she comes into Zhuhai at world no. 17 after having spent almost the entire year inside the top 20. Runner-up in Sydney to Angelique Kerber to start the year, Barty picked up another WTA Tour title in Nottingham and made the semifinals of Strasbourg, the Rogers Cup in Montreal and most recently, Wuhan – although she was prevented from defending her runner-up points from 2017 by Sabalenka herself, who beat Barty in straight sets.

If there is a negative to Barty’s season (which has also seen her continue to be hugely successful in doubles, most recently competing at the WTA Finals Singapore with Coco Vandeweghe) it’s that she hasn’t done well against the top players, compiling a 1-6 record against the top 10 – and these are not players who have been overpowering Barty, either. The Australian, an introverted character, seems to go into her shell when she has opportunities to assert herself in matches and impose her personality upon events – the opposite of Sabalenka, in many ways, which makes this clash even more intriguing.

Sabalenka and Barty are playing for the third time after Barty winning in three sets in the first round of the Australian Open and Sabalenka’s victory in straight sets at the Wuhan Open. The power and explosiveness in the match is likely to come from Sabalenka, although Barty is capable of producing plenty of pace and power of her own, but the Australian is a much more varied and multi-skilled player, with a beautiful backhand slice and great hands at net. Sabalenka, with her big serve, vicious groundstrokes and aggressive mindset, has a much more direct route to victory while Barty needs to do several things well throughout the match – serve well, be aggressive and proactive herself on the forehand when she can, while mixing up the play constantly to disrupt Sabalenka’s rhythm and try to take advantage of her inferior footspeed – in order to win. Based on the way things have been going recently, that should result in a victory for Sabalenka to open her WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai campaign. 

Sabalenka vs Barty WTA Elite Trophy round-robin tennis is live from Zhuhai on Tuesday at 2pm local/6am GMT

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify

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Sabalenka vs Barty tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Sabalenka opens WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai campaign against Barty

Aryna Sabalenka vs Ashleigh Barty live streaming, preview and predictions for the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai round-robin match on Tuesday 30 October: Contrast in styles on the menu as breakthrough star Sabalenka takes on multi-skilled Barty

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