Australian Open 2020: Ashleigh Barty avenges Petra Kvitova defeat to reach semi-finals, will face American Sofia Kenin

  • Barty beat two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 7-6 (6), 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena and will next play Sofia Kenin

  • The last Australian to win the national title was Chris O'Neil in 1978

  • Kenin kept her game neat and tidy to see off big-hitting Tunisian Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-4 and reach her first Grand Slam semi-finals

Melbourne: Ash Barty stormed into her maiden Australian Open semi-final on Tuesday with an emphatic 7-6(6) 6-2 win over Petra Kvitova that avenged her defeat to the hard-hitting Czech in last year’s quarter-final at Melbourne Park.

Thrashed 6-1 6-4 by eventual finalist Kvitova 12 months ago, top seed Barty rode a wave of crowd support as she defused the twice Wimbledon champion’s power game before running away with the contest on a glorious afternoon at Rod Laver Arena.

 Australian Open 2020: Ashleigh Barty avenges Petra Kvitova defeat to reach semi-finals, will face American Sofia Kenin

Australia's Ashleigh Barty reacts after defeating Petra Kvitova during their quarterfinal match. AP

“It’s been absolutely incredible, I knew I had to bring my absolute best against Petra,” Barty said on court.

“I think Petra, in my eyes, is the perfect competitor.

“Regardless of whether she wins or loses she’s always got a big grin on her face.

“I absolutely love testing myself against her.”

French Open champion Barty saved two break points serving for the match, then thumped down four first serves in succession, sealing the win in style with an ace.

The 23-year-old became the first Australian woman to reach the semi-finals at Melbourne Park since Wendy Turnbull in 1984.

She will play 14th seeded American Sofia Kenin, who earlier ended Tunisian Ons Jabeur’s fairytale run, for a place in the final.

“Obviously she’s having an incredible run, she’s really developed her game over the last 12-18 months,” Barty said of the Moscow-born Kenin.

“It’s about me trying to get my running shoes on again.

“I’m going to have nothing but a massive smile on my face when I walk out here on this beautiful court.”

Australia have not had a home winner at Melbourne Park since Chris O’Neil’s triumph in the women’s tournament in 1978 but the sports-mad nation may feel Barty is poised to break the drought.

DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION

Overwhelmed by Kvitova’s firepower in their last meeting in Melbourne — the Australian’s first appearance in the last eight of a Grand Slam — a wiser, craftier Barty took the court for the rematch on Tuesday.

She saved eight out of nine break points to keep Kvitova at bay in the first set, then scrambled brilliantly to claim the tiebreak.

Driven to distraction by the Australian’s defence, Kvitova crumbled in the second set.

She double-faulted to concede two break points and fell 3-0 behind, having reprieved Barty with a weak overhead smash and another poorly struck volley that pinged the top of the net.

The volley gave Barty time to swoop forward, and true to her game, she lobbed Kvitova with a deft backhand rather than seek to pass her with needless brawn and aggression.

Kvitova belatedly found her range and fired a searing backhand down the line to break back to 4-2 but it was more of a death rattle than a rally.

The seventh seed dropped serve the next game with a sixth double-fault that put her within a game of defeat.

The terraces gasped as Barty fired a forehand just wide to allow Kvitova two chances to break back when serving for the match.

But soon after they were roaring in delight as Barty struck two aces in a four-point blitz to ensure she will be the talk of the nation through to Thursday’s semi-final.

Kenin downs Jabeur to reach maiden Grand Slam semi-final

Kenin kept her game neat and tidy to see off big-hitting Tunisian Jabeur 6-4 6-4 and reach her first Grand Slam semi-final. The 21-year-old American arrived in Melbourne after a breakthrough 2019 season when she won all three of her WTA singles titles and came in to Tuesday’s clash at Rod Laver Arena with a 3-1 record against Jabeur.

Perhaps aware she did not have the power to match her opponent, Kenin instead focused on keeping her error count to a minimum.

Jabeur, the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final, produced 20 more winners than her opponent but Kenin made up for that by maintaining the same gap in unforced errors.

“I’m super excited, it was a tough match,” said Kenin, whose previous best show at a Grand Slam was the fourth round at Roland Garros last year.

Kenin capitalised on Jabeur’s faulty groundstrokes to break early in the opening set but the Tunisian got back on serve at 3-3.

Unforced errors kept hurting Jabeur as Kenin got a second break in the next game but the Tunisian showed plenty of stomach for the fight, saving five set points over two games to keep the 14th seed waiting.

The 78th-ranked Jabeur, who said she received a call from her country’s president before the match, had her opportunities in the second set but wasted three breakpoint chances in the sixth game with unforced errors.

She threw her racket away in disgust during the game which lasted close to 10 minutes.

“It was a tough moment,” Kenin said. “She was playing well, I didn’t know it was 10 minutes but I felt the game was pretty long. I feel like after that I got my momentum and started playing better.”

Kenin was 40-0 up in Jabeur’s next service game but once again the Tunisian fought back to take it to deuce before two errors on her forehand gave the American the crucial break and a 4-3 lead.

After both players held serve Kenin converted her first match point when Jabeur, 25, found the net on a service return.

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Updated Date: Jan 28, 2020 13:12:09 IST