WTA

Barty retains grip on number one ranking after reaching Miami Open semis

By Sports Desk March 30, 2021

Ash Barty's grip on the world number one ranking remains for now after winning in three sets against seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka in the Miami Open quarter-finals on Tuesday.

The 2019 Miami Open champion defeated Sabalenka 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 in humid conditions in South Florida to reach the last four, where the Australian will face fifth seed Elina Svitolina.

Svitolina won in the later match on Tuesday over Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-2.

Barty, the 2019 French Open champion, did not drop her serve once against the Belarusian, saving seven break points throughout the match as she bids to retain her top ranking.

Barty is under threat from 2021 Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka for the number one ranking, with the Japanese also into the quarters.

The Australian will retain the top ranking by reaching the decider, regardless of second seed Osaka's results.

"It was a brilliant match today," Barty said in her on-court interview. "It was certainly the best level I’ve played for a long time and especially over a sustained period.

"Aryna really made me bring out my best stuff today. She’s an exceptional competitor."

Barty has now won 10 consecutive matches in Miami, dating back to her 2019 title with 2020's event cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ukraine's Svitolina, ranked fifth in the world, reached the Miami Open semi-finals for the first time with her win over the unseeded Sevastova.

"I've always wanted to play well here in Miami," said Svitolina, who made last year's French Open quarter-finals.

"It's one of the biggest tournaments and playing here is always amazing, so I'm really pleased with the performance tonight."

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  • Australian Open: Barty focused on enjoying herself to ignore pressure of drought Australian Open: Barty focused on enjoying herself to ignore pressure of drought

    Ash Barty said she focused on enjoying herself to avoid getting hampered by the pressure and expectation of delivering an Australian Open title.

    The 25-year-old ended Australia's 44-year wait for a singles champion in Melbourne by beating Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6 (7-2) on Saturday.

    World number one Barty claimed her third grand slam title, landing the trophy without dropping a set.

    All the talk at the tournament focused on Barty ending Australia's drought, but the reigning Wimbledon champion said her ability to just enjoy herself was key.

    "I think the expectation was that I would always come out and give my best, and that's all I've ever done," she told a news conference.

    "I have been close before, but I think now that we've been able to achieve this, I think you guys don't need to talk about it anymore.

    "You were the ones who added fuel to the fire, because for us it was just the same processes and the same enjoyment, regardless of where we're playing in the world, what round it is. That has no impact on how much I enjoy my tennis and go out there or how much I try and compete.

    "I think it's being able to really simplify that and then just come out and enjoy it. I mean, this fortnight, seven times I got to walk out onto a beautiful court with incredible fans and try and do the best I can do, and that's all I could ask of myself.

    "Now to be able to have this part of my dream kind of achieved is amazing, and I think I have to really understand that that came from the processes that we put in with my team and the people that are around me, because without them, I wouldn't be half the person that I am."

    Barty came from 5-1 down in the second set to overcome Collins, sealing her victory with a forehand cross-court passing winner.

    After a successful fortnight, Barty screamed in delight to celebrate her win.

    "It was a little bit surreal. I think I didn't quite know what to do or what to feel, and I think just being able to let out a little bit of emotion, which is a little bit unusual for me, and I think being able to celebrate with everyone who was there in the crowd, the energy was incredible tonight," she said.

    "I think being able to understand how much work my team and I have done behind the scenes and over the last few years, to get to this point to be able to have this opportunity was really special.

    "I think it just kind of all came out at once, and yeah, it was a really, really special moment."

  • Australian Open: Barty won't win US Open unless balls are changed, says coach Australian Open: Barty won't win US Open unless balls are changed, says coach

    Ash Barty can still get better but she will not win the US Open unless a change that is out of her hands is made, according to coach Craig Tyzzer.

    Barty became the first local in 44 years to win the Australian Open, beating Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6 (7-2) in the final on Saturday.

    The 25-year-old dealt with the pressure and expectation in Melbourne to win her third grand slam title.

    But Tyzzer said there was still growth left in Barty, who came from 5-1 down in the second set against Collins.

    "There's still areas we continue to work on still, she's got to get better at. I'm not going to tell what you they are because that's giving away a few too many secrets. But there's still room for improvement," he told a news conference.

    "I think what she's done really well is just she's enjoyed it. She's been really composed and enjoyed playing. Like tonight, we knew what the challenges were going to be, like Danielle can just blow you off the court at times. So she was looking forward to that challenge, 'Okay, how do I figure out how to beat this girl who can just hit you into the corners and hurt you every time you drop it short?'

    "I think for her that's the best part. She's enjoying playing, enjoying the challenges. There's still areas we'll work on with her game. I probably don't have to do too much with her serve now. It seems to be working really well.

    "But, yeah, you're always looking for areas to get better."

    Barty is the second active women's player to have won a grand slam on all three surfaces, joining Serena Williams.

    But Barty's chances of completing a career Grand Slam by winning the US Open rely on something out of her control – changing the balls.

    "The US Open really needs to change the ball for the girls, the fact they still use a different ball for guys and girls. It's a terrible ball for someone like Ash," Tyzzer said.

    "Even in Cincinnati when they use the US Open ball outside she could actually get some loft out of the court, but the ball itself is so light. It was the only tournament last year and really for two years where she uses a gut racquet, but I had to change her to a poly just to get any sort of control of the ball.

    "If they keep that ball the same, no one like Ash will win that tournament. So I think you see the result at the US Open, it was two players who, you go, 'Wow, that was, two different players won that?' There's no surprise when the ball is like it is. And I don't know the reason why. It's the only tournament that has separate balls for the guys and girls. So if they don't change the balls, she won't win the US Open."

  • Australian Open: Doubles delight for Kyrgios and Kokkinakis as Special Ks take title Australian Open: Doubles delight for Kyrgios and Kokkinakis as Special Ks take title

    Nick Kyrgios and Thanaki Kokkinakis completed their Melbourne mission as they were crowned Australian Open doubles champions on Rod Laver Arena.

    The Special Ks partnership, who have drawn huge crowds and fresh interest to doubles, sealed the title with a 7-5 6-4 win over fellow Australians Max Purcell and Matthew Ebden.

    It was approaching midnight on a special day for Australian tennis when Kyrgios and Kokkinakis got over the line, following women's singles queen Ash Barty onto the roll call of this year's champions.

    With one break of serve in each set, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis held firm behind their own games as the singles specialists showcased their precocious skills on the doubles court.

    Kyrgios served for the win in style, firing two aces in a row before Kokkinakis put away a volley on match point.

    The new champions forced the only break of the first set in the 11th game when Ebden volleyed into the net off the return of serve from Kokkinakis, who was then the chief aggressor as he and Kyrgios secured a break in the seventh game of the second set.

    Kyrgios has never been beyond the quarter-finals of a singles slam, reaching that stage at Wimbledon as a teenager in 2014 before doing likewise at the 2015 Australian Open.

    His redoubtable talent has not been backed up by the trophies many expected him to win, and he will have turned 27 by the time the next major, the French Open, begins in late May.

    Together with Kokkinakis, whose own promising career has been blighted by injuries, Kyrgios has thrived this fortnight. And although the prize money in doubles pales against the singles rewards on offer, a first taste of grand slam glory could be a major career spark for this pair.

    They were the wildest of wildcards, with Kyrgios criticised by Michael Venus, a New Zealander left in his wake in the quarter-finals, for his showboating style and geeing up of the crowd.

    "It felt like a circus out there and not really a tennis match," complained Venus, speaking to New Zealand channel 1News. Any doubles partnership featuring the combustible Kyrgios is likely to be an acquired taste.

    This time, though, it felt like a party, with Ebden saying he was "really, really impressed" by Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, and Purcell said it was "hell of fun to watch you guys play".

    Australia Day was on Wednesday, but Saturday felt like an extended celebration.

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