A BROKEN Angelique Kerber choked back tears last November after losing to Ash Barty in the Chinese city of Zhuhai, exhaling: "I'm so glad this year is over".
Two months on, Kerber had her revenge against Barty, and looks in as good a touch as she did when she claimed the 2016 Australian Open and became the world No.1 after claiming the Sydney International title.
Kerber's 6-4 6-4 victory on Ken Rosewall Arena on Saturday night marked her ninth successive win to start 2018, and ensures she will be a woman others will be highly wary of next week at Melbourne Park.
For Australian Barty, who missed out on her first title at home, the final defeat was tough to swallow, but gives her much confidence for her own grand slam tilt next week.
"It was phenomenal, it really was, there's nothing better than playing in front of a crowd, especially when they're very much pro you," Barty said.
"But it would have been nice to get a win for them today, for myself, my team. But it was a hell of a week, perfect preparation for next week.
"You know, I feel like if I play like that, I'll probably beat most of the people in the draw. Today it wasn't just meant to be."
Kerber endured a stunning fall from grace in 2017, dropping 20 places from top spot in the rankings - the first time since 2011 she'd finished a year outside the top 10 - and finishing her with that loss to Barty.
"I was really happy that the year was over, that's true," Kerber said.
"I mean, after Zhuhai I was going back home, and I was just trying to take a lot of weeks off and just trying to forget the year, 2017.
"I was trying to focusing again on my preseason, working hard, and just looking ahead on 2018. So this is where I am right now, and this is what I will try to do my best in this year and not looking back again, no.
"I think I'm always a person that try to fight. Doesn't matter what's happened. I'm always trying to coming back, and this is what I was also trying the last few weeks to working hard and pushing me until my limits.
"And also, now I know what I can do. I did it 2016 and also the years before.
"So this is, yeah, what I was having always in my mind when I was preparing for this year, and now I won my first title so that's, for sure, a good way where I am right now."
Barty had two break points on each of Kerber's first two service games and couldn't convert.
Then Kerber broke Barty to go 3-2 up, and held her own to take out the set.
The second began with Barty breaking Kerber immediately, but the German countered by winning against Barty's serve in the next game.
She then broke Barty in the fifth game to go 3-2 up again, and the second set followed the pattern of the first to land Kerber her first title win since September 2016.
While Barty was disappointed, she paid tribute to Kerber, who had taken the 21-year-old under her wing at the start of her career.
"Angie was probably one of the first girls that sort of welcomed me when I first came on to the tour when I was quite young, she always made time for me," Barty said.
"She's such a brilliant chick. If she wasn't playing tennis, it wouldn't matter; our relationship would still be the same."
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