This month proved to be a memorable one for 15-year-old Australian Ashleigh Barty as it saw her win her first ITF Pro Circuit title and for February she becomes our featured player.
The month began for Barty with a disappointing first round loss in the qualifying event at the $25,000 tournament in Launceston, Australia. With partner Isabella Holland she made it to the quarterfinals in the doubles event before being eliminated by the second seeds.
Staying in Australia, things improved dramatically the following week in Sydney for the teenager. Unseeded she raced through three rounds of qualifying with hardly any troubles to book a spot in the main draw.
She opened her account in the main draw with a 60 62 win over fellow qualifier Na-Lae Han from Korea. This was followed by another straight sets win in the second round to set up a quarterfinal with Aiko Nakamura, the Japanese eighth seed.
Barty took the first set but Nakamura hit back to level the match in the second set and from here you may well have expected the seed to go on to win the match but Barty held her nerve to take the deciding set 64.
Following this tense battle she returned to comfortable winning ways. First with a 61 62 semifinal win and then, surprisingly, in the final 61 63 over the number two seed, and fellow Aussie, Olivia Rogowska. This win brought her a first title on the ITF Pro Circuit and she wouldn’t have long to wait for a second!
Things did not go all her way though in Sydney as with first time partner Tyra Calderwood she was once again eliminated from the doubles event in the quarterfinals.
The month came to a close with a trip to Mildura to complete her hat-trick of Australian $25,000 tournaments this month.
No qualifying required this time as her run to the final in Sydney allowed her to claim direct entry to the main draw by the Special Exempt rule, but she was still unseeded.
She was, however, seeded in the doubles event where she partnered Sally Peers for the first time. As fourth seeds they managed to reach the semifinals where they narrowly lost 64 64 to the top seeds and eventual champions, Mervana Jugic-Salkic & Ksenia Lykina.
Buoyed by her recent title win in Sydney, Barty’s confidence may have taken a knock when she was drawn to face South African Chanel Simmonds, the number one seed, in the opening round of the singles event.
However, a 62 63 win for the young Australian would suggest not!
With ever growing confidence she backed up this victory with three more straight sets wins to carry her into another final. This run included a quarterfinal win over the eighth seed, and also her doubles partner during the week, Sally Peers and a 61 61 win over Arina Rodionova.
Standing in her way of a second successive title was fellow Australian Viktorija Rajicic, a Wild Card entrant. Barty did not allow her opponent to settle and for the third match running she ran out a 61 winner in the first set.
Rajicic put up more of a fight in the second set which went to a tiebreak ultimately won 10-8 by Barty to end the month on a high note.
Ashleigh Barty will certainly be a name worth keeping an eye on as her career progresses and her performances during February helped lift her to a new career high of 361 when the WTA singles rankings were released on 5 March 2012.