Karolina Pliskova edged a dramatic final against Madison Keys, while Naomi Osaka also enjoyed a good week at the WTA Brisbane International.
Karolina Pliskova won two epic matches against Naomi Osaka and Madison Keys to win the WTA Brisbane International.
The world number two, seeking a Grand Slam breakthrough at the Australian Open later this month, has always played well in Australia.
Pliskova has now won the WTA Brisbane event in three of the last four years, making the semifinals in the only competition in that span where she did not triumph.
She also has a good record in Melbourne, while defending champion Osaka and Keys will also go into the first Grand Slam of the year in good spirits after their efforts this week.
World number one Ash Barty has another event to play before that at the Adelaide International, where she will look to bounce back.
Barty’s week in Brisbane did not go as hoped, a shock defeat to Jennifer Brady in her first singles match seeing her eliminated. The Australian did get some match time in the doubles, ultimately losing the final with partner Kiki Bertens against Su-wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova.
As for Pliskova, she can celebrate a 16th WTA Tour trophy, six of those successes having come in the last 12 months.
She beat American Keys 6-4 4-6 7-5 in an entertaining final encounter lasting two hours and seven minutes.
That came after a dramatic semifinal win over Osaka. It was extremely tough to separate the two with the Czech eventually saving a match point and emerging 6-7 (10-12) 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.
Earlier in the week, Osaka won three-set duels with Maria Sakkari, Sofia Kenin and Kiki Bertens, getting some valuable competitive court time.
And aside from the Pliskova match, the Japanese star has won her other 14 matches since going out of the US Open to Belinda Bencic, with her serve looking particularly strong.
Keys has often been billed as a Grand Slam contender without ultimately delivering, but she looks to be in good form ahead of a major again.
The creditable loss in the final added to notable wins over Petra Kvitova and a resurgent Danielle Collins.
Two other WTA Tour events took place in Week 1 of the season, with Serena Williams triumphing as part of a memorable week at the ASB Classic.
Ekaterina Alexandrova won her first full WTA Tour title at the Shenzhen Open.
She beat Elena Rybakina 6-2 6-4 in the final to follow up wins over fellow seeds Wang Qiang and Garbine Muguruza.
Alexandrova took advantage after top seed Bencic lost in the first round and second seed Aryna Sabalenka also suffered an early exit.
A run to the semifinals for Muguruza was a promising sign for the two-time major winner, who is looking to bounce back from a poor 2019 season.