Barty cruises into Miami Open final after dominant victory

Defending champion Ash Barty comfortably beat Elina Svitolina in the Miami Open semis to seal her return to the final.

The Australian world No.1 had been 1-5 previously against Svitolina but took charge on Friday (AEST) with two early breaks and used her strong serve and deep slices to keep the Ukrainian on the defensive. She went on to beat the No.5 seed 6-3, 6-3.

Ash Barty has booked her spot in the Miami Open final.Credit:AP

Midway through the second set, Svitolina made a rare trip to the net, and Barty responded with a perfect lob winner that drew an appreciative pat of the racquet strings from her opponent. On match point, Barty closed out the victory with a forehand winner and a fist pump.

Barty was already assured of retaining her world No.1 ranking next week after Naomi Osaka’s 23-match winning streak ended. The Australian won the Miami title in 2019, and the event was canceled last year at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Saturday, Barty will play the winner of the second semi between No.8 Bianca Andreescu and No.23 Maria Sakkari.

Barty has gained momentum after starting the tournament by saving a match point against qualifier Kristina Kucova. That was Barty’s first match outside Australia since February 2020.

On the men’s side, Hubert Hurkacz of Poland earned his first semi-final berth in a top-level ATP event by rallying past No. 2-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Hurkacz, seeded 26th, has won three in a row when facing a top-five opponent, and beat Tsitsipas for only the second time in their eight meetings.

Hurkacz’s upset win further scrambled the men’s draw. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer skipped the tournament, and No.1-seeded Daniil Medvedev lost in the quarter-finals to No.7 Robert Bautista Agut.

Hurkacz was serving at 0-2, 15-40 in the second set when he began his comeback. He steadied his baseline game, while Tsitsipas became increasingly erratic and frustrated.

“I was very stressed these two weeks,” Tsitsipas said. “I felt like it was my opportunity. It’s a very disappointing loss. Everything was under control. And suddenly, I don’t know, self-explosion.”

Hurkacz hit 15 aces and saved 10 of the 13 break points he faced. He’ll climb in next week’s rankings to at least 27th, a career high.

“I want to be as good as I can,” Hurkacz said. “Hopefully, I can win some titles in the future.”

AP

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