Barty battles past Martic into Wuhan semis

Photo : www.wtatennis.com
www.wtatennis.com|26-Sep-2019 17:32

WTA World No.1 Ashleigh Barty was made to work hard to edge past WTA World No.22 Petra Martic in three sets.

WUHAN, China – WTA World No.1 Ashleigh Barty will play in the semifinals of the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open for the third successive year after getting the better of Petra Martic, 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-3 in a tight encounter that lasted two hours 23 minutes.

All the statistics pre-match favored the Australian, who boasted a 41-5 winning record against players outside the Top 10 in 2019 and a 5-2 success rate in WTA Tour quarterfinals. Martic, meanwhile, had only two Top 10 wins under her belt in the last two years, suffering 12 losses in the interim.

The Croat, though, was far more competitive than the numbers might have suggested, hanging in to force the first set into a lengthy tiebreaker when she might have faded out of it, then breaking early en route to the second. After making a quick start in the third, Martic was unable to hold off the Barty onslaught, with the world's best player timing her run at the perfect moment.

Although it was the WTA World No.22 who drew first blood in the opening game, in which she earned a break, Barty otherwise dominated the early stages of the encounter. Hitting the ball crispy and early to establish a 4-1 lead in which she strung together an astonishing 15 successive points.

Having come off that high, the No.1 seed seemed to allow her concentration to wander for a 10-minute spell, in which Martic set about eliminating the advantage.

Spells of the match had been scrappy, but as the opening set reached a climax, both players reserved some of their best tennis. Martic saved two set points on serve with a combination of intelligent and powerful play, typifying the desire of both ladies to work the ball around the court then come into the net to clinically finish off the rally.

This was amply demonstrated in the tiebreak, in which a glorious half-volley from the Croat pushed her 6-5 ahead. It was, however, Barty who was more stoic on the big points, benefitting from two rather loose rallies from her rival to secure the set.

Having displayed her mental fortitude by remaining competitive to the death of the opener, Martic began the second set with a strong hold, sending a message to her opponent that her resolve was anything but broken.

Indeed, while Barty produced an error-strewn second set – she made 13 unforced mistakes compared to her opponent’s four - the Wuhan debutante was rock steady. After breaking the world’s top-ranked player in the fourth game, she went on to secure the set in an unflustered manner, dropping only five points on serve.

When she broke Barty in the opening game of the decider, the momentum was firmly in the underdog’s favor, yet having pushed herself to the brink of a first win over a current WTA World No.1, she had to fight to control her nerves and was immediately broken back, despite having led 30-0.

The 2017 Wuhan finalist started to ask more regular questions of her opponent thereafter. It was in the eighth game that Barty made her decisive play, despite squandering one break point after a magnificent lob was somehow returned by Martic. It was ironic, then, that have shown such excellent resolve throughout, the Croat would see the vital break lost via a double fault.

Barty successfully served the match out, sealing the deal with an ace to set up a semifinal date with defending champion Aryna Sabalenka or Elena Rybakina.