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Barty bounces back to deny Pliskova in Stuttgart


STUTTGART: No 1 seed Ashleigh Barty came back from the brink to reach her third semifinal of 2021 at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, winning the last four games to defeat No 6 seed Karolina Pliskova 2-6, 6-1, 7-5.

In Barty’s first tournament on red clay since winning Roland Garros 2019, the Australian was two points from defeat five times as Pliskova served for the match at 5-4 in the decider. However, she pulled off a superb recovery to cap a contest that had been full of tactical twists and turns, improving her record against Pliskova to 5-2.

The result also extends Barty’s winning streak against the Top 10 opposition to eight. This record dates back to the 2019 Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, where she lost 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Kiki Bertens in her second round-robin match before bouncing back to win the tournament.

Indeed, Pliskova was the better player on big points for the majority of the match, converting all three breakpoints on the Barty serve and saving 14 out of the 19 she faced, including the first eight of the deciding set. Having levelled the score, Barty took control, racing through 10 of the last 12 points to set up a semifinal clash against either No 4 seed Elina Svitolina or No 7 seed Petra Kvitova.

Halep sweeps into quarters

On Thursday, No 2 seed Simona Halep had a successful clay-court season debut, defeating Marketa Vondrousova in under an hour to reach the quarterfinals. No 4 seed Elina Svitolina also reached the elite eight after beating two-time champion Angelique Kerber for the seventh straight time.

Halep steamrolled into the quarterfinals as she ousted Marketa Vondrousova, 6-1, 6-3.

World No 3 Halep is still seeking her first trip to the final in Stuttgart, but her clay-court season debut proved to be a huge step towards achieving that goal as the Romanian dispatched 2019 Roland Garros finalist Vondrousova in just 56 minutes of play.

“Starting the clay-court season makes me very happy and motivated, extra motivated actually,” Halep told the press, after her win. “I missed playing matches. I had a few weeks without an official match and it was kind of tough when I started the match, but my mind was strong enough just to give focus on what I have to play. So, I did it great and today, it was a great match.”

Next up for Halep will be World No 34 Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, who upset No 8 seed Belinda Bencic, 6-1, 7-5.

Alexandrova is now 3-3 this season against Top 20 opposition after her 81-minute victory over World No 12 Bencic. Alexandrova finds herself in her third quarterfinal of the year, in her first-ever romp through the Stuttgart main draw. — WTA

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