Ashleigh Barty insists she's playing the tennis that can take it to the world's best at the Australian Open, despite falling to Petra Kvitova 1-6 7-5 7-6 (7-3) in an epic Sydney International final.
After Barty shot out of the blocks in the first set and led the deciding set 3-0, world No.8 Kvitova fought back time and time again in the 2hr 19min classic while battling fatigue to claim her second Sydney crown.
Forced to serve to stay in the match as early as the end of the second set, the Czech star Kvitova hit back to break Barty for the first time to take the set and send the match to a decider.
Both women broke each other three times in the third set, including back-to-back efforts from Barty as Kvitova served for the championship twice.
Kvitova's experience finally paid off as she powered home in the tiebreaker to claim her 26th WTA tour victory.
In turn, it also handed Barty her second straight runner-up finish in Sydney, after losing to Angelique Kerber in last year's final.
"It's tough to take," Barty said.
"It's hard to put in words at the moment, but, it's been a hell of a week. I couldn't have left anything more out on the court.
"I have had probably one of the best weeks of my career. I feel like I'm playing great tennis. Yes, it's a bitter pill to swallow tonight, but we move on."
Regardless, it showed world No.15 Barty is ready to challenge anyone at next week's Australian Open.
She beat world No.1 Simona Halep, No.9 Kiki Bertens and No.12 Elise Mertens on her way to the final.
She also broke Kvitova's serve six times in total, after the No.5 seed had dropped just four games on her racquet throughout the whole tournament previously.
"I feel like I have always had the belief that I can do that.
"Always had the belief that, you know, I can beat anyone in the world. I think this week has been that level.
"Top-10 wins are hard to come by any time throughout the whole year, let alone a couple in a row and a couple in one week. I feel like I'm playing really good tennis."
Barty will face Thai Luksika Kumkhum in the opening round of the Australian Open on Monday, with Carolina Wozniacki her first big potential opponent in the fourth round.
Meanwhile Kvitiva's rear-guard action came as she battled stomach pain, cramps, the heat and fatigue from two late finishes on previous nights.
"She really played too well from the beginning. I missed a lot," Kvitova said.
"It was such an amazing final. I was very slow from the beginning. I'm just happy I found a way to win it with some nerves and cramping."
Australian Associated Press