Ash Barty is now just one win from returning to No. 1 and getting that top seed at the US Open. And that’s because the Australian won today in the Cincinnati quarterfinals while Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova were eliminated.
Barty began the day blowing a 5-2 first set lead before getting back on track taking 12 of the last 14 games to beat Maria Sakkari 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.
“I started the match well and I went away from what was working. Maria took some risks that paid off,” said Barty.
“It was important for me at the start of the second set to go back to basics and what worked before. I had to serve well, and not give her too many looks at second serves. I tried to bring in my slice to change the tempo of the match.”
In her first Cincinnati semifinal, Barty will meet 2-time Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova. The 34-year-old former US Open champion was the stronger, fitter player in the heat coming from a set down to deny Karolina Pliskova 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-3.
“It’s crazy! It’s crazy,” Kuznetsova said. “But I promised myself that I gonna take it differently. This is what works for me. I take the losses the same as the wins.
“So, like, kind of if I give everything out there, so I go out the court and just be happy, because it’s everything goes with tennis.”
Trying to keep her No. 1, Osaka took the court against American upstart Sofia Kenin. The young Kenin has been a force all summer and today she rattled Osaka taking the opener before the Japanese rolled 6-1 in the second.
Early in the third, Osaka sought treatment mid-serve and after getting her lefty knee wrapped, one point later she retired from the match down 6-4, 1-6, 2-0.
“The thing is, my pain tolerance is really high,” Osaka said. “So that’s usually why I play through things that apparently I shouldn’t.
“So I really don’t know what’s going on with my leg right now.
“I was asking the physio if it was safe to play, because I really hate withdrawing. I feel like we were playing such a great match, too. It’s not fair to her to just withdraw, because I feel like I’m bowing out.
“Then I was asking the physio if she thinks it’s safe to play. Then I went out there. I wanted to finish the set. But I felt it wasn’t safe.”
Osaka of course has to worry about her upcoming title defense.
“”It sucks, especially since I didn’t want to get injured this close to the Open,” Osaka said. “And now I’m kind of worried a little bit.
“Last year I won the US Open, and this year I’m trying to play the US Open,” she added. “I don’t even really think about winning the tournament. I just want to have the chance to play it, you know?
“I feel like this [injury] might have that 1% chance of me not being able to play, and that’s what’s concerning me.
“In the end, I’m going to play even if the doctor says no, probably.”
Kenin has now made the SFs or better in three of her last five events, including the last four last week in Toronto.
“I feel like I’m just having really great wins, you know, beating these top players,” Kenin said. “I’m just finding my rhythm while playing really well. Yeah, I couldn’t be happier with how things are going.”
Kenin and Madison Keys will assure an American makes the final. Keys continued her terrific run eliminated Venus Williams 6-2, 6-3. Keys was in a bit of trouble mid-way through the second, but saved break points and otherwise had an easy night over the 39-year-old 7-time champion.
The new finalists will bid for the Cincinnati title on Sunday.
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