MELBOURNE, Australia – Ashleigh Barty, Australia’s best hope for its home grand slam in decades, powered past number seven seed Petra Kvitova in straight sets on Tuesday to sail into the semifinals for an encounter with American Sofia Kenin.
The world number one defeated Kvitova 7-6 (6), 6-2, avenging her loss to the Czech at the same stage of the Australian Open last year.
Since then, Barty has won three straight games against the two-time Wimbledon champion to take their head-to-head record to 4-4.
The two players were evenly matched in the first set, with Kvitova awing the crowd with her power. The local favorite responded with grit and steely determination.
A crucial moment of the game was with the set even at 3-3 when Barty managed to save five break points, and thus prevent the last year’s finalist from running away with the momentum.
The set went on to a tiebreaker, where Barty managed to hold on to her nerves, showing the mettle that has made her the world’s top ranked player.
The second set paled out in comparison, with the Australian securing a break right away before racing to a 4-0 lead. Kvitova fought back to make it 4-2, but it was not enough as Barty wasted no time in closing the match in the next two games.
“This is absolutely incredible, I knew I had to bring my absolute best today against Petra. That first set was so crucial. I just wanted to make the most of it and made a quick start in the second set,” Barty said in a post-match interview.
The 23-year-old has become the first Australian to reach the women’s singles semifinals at the Australian Open in 36 years since Wendy Turnbull in 1984. Barty could possibly become the first Australian in 42 years to win the grand slam.
She will next square off against 14th-seeded Kenin, who earlier during the day saw off Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-4 and reach her first grand slam semifinals.
The in-form 21-year-old came in to the clash at Rod Laver Arena with a 3-1 record against Jabeur, who marked a milestone of her own by becoming the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinals of a grand slam.
The big-hitting Jabeur sent down five aces to Kenin’s none, while also firing 20 more winners. However, the differences in the number of unforced errors were just as many.
Kenin on the other hand played a clean game, managing to keep her errors to a minimum, which eventually helped keep her hopes alive.
“It feels really good,” Kenin said in her post-match press conference. “I think overall I played really good. I tried to handle the nerves, obviously nerves coming into this match.”
Speaking of her next match on Thursday against the local favorite, Kenin appeared confident and said she had played Barty a few times and knew her game pretty well.
“Of course, she’s playing at her home, so it’s a little bit different,” she admitted. “I made a lot of new fans. Hopefully I’ll get some support, have a good match.”
Barty leads the head-to-head with Kenin 4-1.