Barty beats Pliskova to reach Stuttgart semis

World number one beats Czech opponent 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 in quarters


AFP April 24, 2021

STUTTGART:

World number one Ashleigh Barty fought back to reach the semi-finals of the WTA Stuttgart clay-court tournament with a 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 win over Karolina Pliskova on Friday.

"It was an incredible match, with two very different opening sets, and the third was extraordinary," said Barty after her 18th win this year.

"I felt like I created a lot of opportunities and Karolina was able to come up with some quality stuff on some massive points.

"It was a really good battle."

The Australian, who turns 25 on Saturday, rallied after a dream first set in the quarter-final from Pliskova, who broke Barty twice.

However, Barty broke the Czech to start the second set and begin her recovery.

Pliskova, the 2018 Stuttgart champion, served for the match at 5-4 in the decider but couldn't close it out as Barty converted her fifth break point in a marathon game.

Barty then held to love and secured victory in the following game on her second match point.

"I missed some returns, but Karolina is a fierce competitor who has been at the top of her game for a long time," said Barty, the 2019 French Open winner.

"I knew I'd have to do something special to claw my way back and get back on my terms."

Barty faces fourth seed Elina Svitolina in Saturday's semi-final after the Ukrainian staged a remarkable comeback in her 6-7 (4/7), 7-5, 6-2 win over Petra Kvitova.

Svitolina was 5-2 down in the second set but saved two match points as she reeled off five games on the bounce against 2019 champion Kvitova.

She broke the two-time Wimbledon winner twice in the third set to complete an improbable quarter-final turnaround.

"It was a really tough battle, I was expecting a big match but I didn't think it would be that hard," admitted Svitolina.

The world number five has lost her last two matches against Barty, most recently in the semi-finals of this year's Miami tournament.

"We played each other in Miami a few weeks ago, we know each other's game very well, so I am looking forward to it," said Svitolina.

Second seed Simona Halep is yet to drop a set in Stuttgart as she reached the semi-finals with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Ekaterina Alexandrova.

After losing her two previous matches to the Russian, Halep said she learnt from her defeat at the Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne earlier this year.

"I knew she would play fast and flat, so I had to make her run more - I learnt my lesson," said Halep.

"It's a big plus to have beaten these two girls who beat me before," she said having also seen off Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in straight sets on Thursday.

In her semi-final, Halep will face fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus who defeated Anett Kontaveit 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.

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