Germany's Angelique Kerber beat Australia's Ashleigh Barty in straight sets to win the Sydney International for her ninth consecutive win on Saturday ahead of next week's Australian Open. One of those sets went to second seeded American star Venus Williams.
Making the final in Sydney ensures Barty will carry the heaviest expectation at next week's Australian Open, which she enters as Australia's highest-ranked female.
Sharapova was given a wildcard in Stuttgart in March a year ago, 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". I have had a great week and the final was not easy against Ash.
The 21-year-old Barty needed one hour, 58 minutes to see off the challenge of Russian-born Gavrilova as both players struggled to hold serve throughout the match.
It is an impressive start to the new year for Kerber, having won her four matches at last week's mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth before her three victories in Sydney.
"I shot myself in the foot with my serving in the first and didn't give myself an opportunity to be dominant on service games", Barty said. A lot of tough players was playing here.
"Every match will be tough, but first of all, I will just be enjoying today, the title, and then from tomorrow I will be thinking about Melbourne".More news: LeBron James Reveals What Could Make Him Retire Earlier Than Expected
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"Last year I actually didn't play that well (in the Australian Open) but I was just competing, I was fighting hard". I was just trying to getting used to the weather conditions, as well, because every day was a little bit different: windy, it was hot, and everything.
Barty was gracious in defeat during the presentation ceremony, saying: "It's fantastic to see Angie back playing at her best. I think even though it may not be ideal at the moment, it's still good enough to win matches".
"We have set up a flawless 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".
"But we will head to Melbourne tonight and do what we need to do over the next couple of days to get ready". Angie is on fire.
"There is nothing better than playing at home, playing in front of a home crowd".
"I'm still able to win tennis matches".
"Regardless whether you're number one, number 10, or number 100 in the world, it's the best feeling for an Australian to be playing at the Australian Open".