Ash Barty's body-blow to Naomi Osaka in latest Miami Open heroics

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·3-min read
Ash Barty, pictured here after beating Aryna Sabalenka to reach the Miami Open semi-finals.
Ash Barty beat Aryna Sabalenka to reach the Miami Open semi-finals. Image: AAP

Ash Barty has moved one step closer to cementing her World No.1 ranking after surging into the semi-finals at the Miami Open.

The Aussie superstar extended her recent record in three-set matches to 18-3 on Tuesday as she battled past Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

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Barty progressed to the last four of the WTA 1000 event with a 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3 win.

The World No.1, who had also been taken to three sets in the fourth round by Victoria Azarenka, was given another testing challenge in a hard-fought quarter-final battle.

After taking a close first set, Barty appeared to be on the brink of victory after grabbing a 3-1 lead in the second set tie-break.

But Sabalenka staged a superb recovery to snatch the tie-break 7-5 and force a decisive third set.

Barty regrouped in the third though and with Sabalenka clearly in pain clutching her stomach, rammed home her advantage to complete a deserved win.

“That was certainly the best level I’ve played for a long time and certainly for a sustained period,” Barty said.

“I really had to look after my service games and I did that really well today. 

"Then I needed to be as aggressive as I could inside the court.”

The Aussie is now 10-1 in her last 11 quarter-finals and 12-3 in her past 15 meetings against fellow top-10 players.

The victory means Barty will hang onto her World No.1 ranking unless she loses in the semi-finals and Naomi Osaka wins the title.

Barty can cement the No.1 ranking if she makes the final.

Ash Barty, pictured here in action against Aryna Sabalenka at the Miami Open.
Ash Barty in action against Aryna Sabalenka at the Miami Open. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Bautista Agut sends John Isner packing

In the men's tournament, Roberto Bautista Agut eliminated American hope John Isner in three sets to avenge his 2019 quarter-final loss in Miami.

Bautista Agut saved a match point at 5-6 down in the third set tie-break to claim a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (9/7) win to reach the quarter-finals.

"John is a good friend on the Tour. He always makes matches difficult," said Bautista Agut. 

"He has a very big serve and a lot of power from baseline with the forehand. It makes it always difficult."

Against Isner on Tuesday, Bautista Agut reaped the rewards from attacking Isner's second serve to claim the first set.

Isner turned the tables to level in the second set, and appeared to have the momentum after taking a 3-0 lead in the final set tie-break.

However Bautista Agut dug in and saved a match point with a blistering forehand. Another forehand then forced an error from Isner at match point to send the Spaniard into the last eight.

In other last 16 matches, Italy's 21st-seeded Jannik Sinner downed Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the last eight.

It is the first time the 19-year-old has reached the quarter-finals of an ATP Masters event.

with AFP

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