Barty tips Kerber as major Open contender

Ashleigh Barty plays a forehand against Daria Gavrilova at the Sydney International

She improved to 11-16 in career finals, winning her second title in Australia after the 2016 Australian Open.

Sharapova was given a wildcard in Stuttgart in March past year, even though her suspension didn't allow her to play her first-round match until the third day of the tournament - a decision Kerber labelled at the time as "a little bit strange".

The German, who starts the Australian Open as 21st seed next week, went a break ahead at 3-2 in the first set after a double fault from home favourite Barty and took the opener. It's more about me playing matches the right way and doing the right things on and off the court to try and get the results, and to be able to have that No.1 ranking is a bonus. "I felt like I probably played some of the better tennis that I have this week", Barty said.

Having come into the tournament unseeded, the German saved match points against Lucie Safarova in her first round match, and she did not drop a set in her last three matches against Cibulkova, Camila Giorgi and Barty.

From there Kerber took control and stayed in charge, pilfering another key break in the seventh game of the second set before convincingly serving out the match.

Elsewhere, Elise Mertens defended her Hobart International title after a 6-1 4-6 6-3 win over Mihaela Buzarnescu.

"It's nice to make a final at home, but I think in my eyes it's ideal preparation for next week", said Barty, the first Australian woman in a Sydney final since Alicia Molik defeated Sam Stosur in 2005.

"What she did in the past year, it's incredible", Kerber said. But I'm feeling good - I'm healthy.

"We have set up a ideal platform for me to work with this year to try and go deep in tournaments, whether it's in Australia or in Europe or in the States". Angie is on fire.

Her Sydney campaign is strong preparation for next week's Australian Open in Melbourne, where she opens against world number 69 Aryna Sabalenka.

In men's semifinals, Russian qualifier Daniil Medvedev booked a spot in the final by upsetting fourth-seeded Fabio Fognini of Italy 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.

De Minaur, ranked 167 in the world and the youngest player to reach an ATP World Tour final since American Taylor Fritz at Memphis in 2016, showed impressive fighting spirit to recover from 4-0 down in the decider to level the third set at 5-5.

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