Ash Barty once again had to pull a rabbit out of her hat to survive in Stuttgart. Yesterday, the World No. 1 saved two match points in a win over former champion Karolina Pliskova. Today in the semifinals, she was pushed the limits against beating Elina Svitolina, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2.
Up a set, Svitolina served for the match in the second at 5-4 but couldn’t close the door. She also was ahead 4-2 in the break before Barty won five of the next six point to force the decider. And Barty broke early in the third to pace a third straight win over Svitolina.
“I think you learn from every single match regardless of who the opponent is, but I think the Top 10 players and particularly the WTA Top 10 have, in the last five or six years, been exceptional quality,” said Barty.
“I think you have to bring your best to be able to compete,” she added. “You know when it forces some of your best tennis out of you. So, it’s nice, in the critical moments, to come up with some pretty good stuff yesterday and today again. But obviously you enjoy the challenge of playing against the world’s best as well.”
Simona Halep’s hope for a first Stuttgart final were dusted by Aryna Sabalenka who overwhelmed the Romanian 6-3, 6-2 in one of her best wins on the dirt.
“I think for now, I’m playing pretty well on the clay court,” Sabalenka said. “There is still something else to learn and something else to improve. Of course, the last two matches I won, it’s – wow – that’s crazy. That’s saying a lot. I’m on the right way and it’s going to bring me a few more steps.”
Halep still hasn’t made a tour final since Rome last September.
“When everything goes right for her it’s really tough to return the ball, long and deep, to give her a little bit of a problem,” Halep said. “She overpowered me today.
“She played great. It’s always tough when a player plays like that.”
Barty and Sabalenka have split six prior meetings with Barty winning last month in the Miami quarterfinals. The Australian is also in the doubles final.
“I think she have enough power, so she will be there tomorrow, 100%,” Sabalenka said. “So, yeah, I’m looking forward to this final and I will do everything I can.”
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