Australia’s world no. 1 Ash Barty faced world no. 8 Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus in a quarterfinal at the Miami WTA 1000.
The Australian needs to reach the final to hold onto the top ranking in women’s tennis, or see Naomi Osaka not win the title.
Barty faced three break points after falling behind 0-40 in the sixth game however she recovered to hold serve. An Ace sealing the game.
At 4-4 Barty was able to get a key break and then serve out the set.
That came despite Sabalenka holding 40-15 and then Ad after an Ace. A double fault undid that good work and a shot into the net gave Barty her first break point. Another double fault handing the Australian a 5-4 lead.
At the end of the first set the both players had served at 69%. The winners favoured Sabalenka 11-6 but the unforced errors were 11-6 to the Belarusian.
In the second set Sabalenka had a break point at 2-3 and Ad, after Barty hit a forehand from inside the service line over the baseline.
Barty came into the net and after playing two volleys to win the point, she had saved the break point opportunity.
In the next service game from Barty a forehand winner that landed on the line from Sabalenka gave the Belarusian two more break point opportunities.
A well placed first serve forced an error on the first, and a wide serve saw Sabalenka return long to see the score at deuce.
Barty then served an Ace for Ad. Sabalenka took advantage of a couple of short balls in the next point to get back to deuce.
Another forehand winner off a serve gave Sabalenka yet another break point. Barty forced an error to save again.
Barty would fight her way out of the game to hold for 4-4.
In the ninth service game Sabalenka fell to 0-30. A big swinging first serve won her the next point. An unplayable serve down the T made it 30-30.
Barty would hold to love for 5-5. Then two more holds of serve and the match went into a tiebreaker to decide the second set.
Sabalenka forced an error from Barty in the opening point. Barty then won the next two points before a service return sat up on the service line. Sabalenka hit the forehand wide for the first mini break.
Barty was out to 4-2 after Sabalenka mishit a backhand.
Sabalenka fought back to 4-4 before double faulting to see Barty serving at 5-4.
Barty got a good first serve in, however it was Sabalenka that took the point with a forehand winner to Barty’s backhand corner.
A good service return down the line had Barty on the run and the Australian would hit long to give Sabalenka a set point.
Barty had a look at a second serve which she sliced back. The next shot from Barty was again a slice, but it was hit wide to give the Belarusian the set followed by a roar from Sabalenka.
The second set lasted 61 minutes and Barty’s first serve percentage had dropped to 60% while Sabalenka’s dropped slightly to 67%.
The winners were 20-12 to Sabalenka with unforced errors 22-14 for Sabalenka. Barty did not get a look at a break point while she had to save four.
The heat policy was then implemented and the players took a 10 minute break.
Barty started the third set and held to 15 to get the early lead.
Sabalenka was under some pressure at 0-30 in the fourth game but she hit a winner and then an Ace to fight back.
Barty held to love to lead 3-2.
Again Sabalenka was behind 0-30 and it almost became 0-40, however her forehand down the line just caught the edge of the line.
The next point saw Barty mishit a return that was more of a lob. Sabalenka attempted a smash from the baseline but hit it into the net for 15-40.
Sabalenka served wide and then Sabalenka had the opening to hit a winner. Sabalenka hit a running forehand winner to save the next break point.
The Belarusian would hold. Sabalenka at this stage appeared to be troubled by a stomach injury.
After hitting a backhand into the net, Sabalenka found herself at 0-40. She would then just push a backhand wide to be broken to love.
Sabalenka clearly was affected by something. Barty quickly closed out the match after winning 12 points in a row to take a 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 victory.
“It was a brilliant match today, certainly the best level I’ve played in a long time,” Barty said. “Aryna really made me bring out my best.”
Barty is now into the semifinals and will face world no. 5 Elina Svitolina from Ukraine after she defeated Latvia’s world no. 57 Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-2.
Svitolina has a dominant 5-1 winning record against Barty, however the Australian won their most recent meeting in the championship match at the WTA Finals in 2019.