Ash Barty was again at her best dispatching Barbora Krejcikova in her quarter-final clash of the last two Grand Slam champions at the Western & Southern Open on Friday, while two retirements aided the progress of Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova, and Jil Teichman came out the winner of the Swiss roll with Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic.
I feel like it's nice to get a couple of matches now here in Cincy,. Each match you get to play in different conditions and you get more and more used to it. I'm just able to adjust and adapt and I look forward to my next one, no doubt. Ash Barty
With a potential rematch of the Wimbledon final now becoming highly likely, Barty must first deal with Kerber and Pliskova must find her way past Teichmann in Saturday’s semi-finals.
Barty’s trouncing of Krejcikova, 6-2 6-4, continued the World No 1’s sparkling form, improving the Australian’s record against Top 20 players this year to 14-1 as she reaches her 2nd Cincinnati semi-final, and yet to drop a set.
“I feel like I did a good job looking after my own serves,” Barty said. “For all but one service game, I felt like a lot of the time I was in control.
“That just allowed me to be more free on Barbora’s service games. Overall, I was able to use my forehand and slice effectively.
“It was just staying patient, knowing that I was doing the right things. It was going to take some time.”
The top seed recovered from a 2-4 down in the second set to hand the Czech only her 3rd loss since mid-May.
Krejcikova has been on a recent run of hot form, with Barty now accounting for two of those losses since winning Strasbourg the week before the French Open and then collecting the titles in Paris and Prague.
They now stand level on 38 match wins apiece this season.
The Australian was not deterred by the extreme heat and humidity in the morning’s first match at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
“It was like a Brisbane summer day,” Barty said. “The heat’s certainly not a problem for me.
“It’s nice to play the first match. You know when your start time is, which is not very regular in the tennis world.”
After winning the opening set in 32 minutes. Barty fell behind a break in the second but closed down the deficit quickly by snagging Krejcikova’s final 2 service games of the match.
Barty won 84 percent of first serves, and fired 7 aces, bringing her total for the week to 15, while she converted 4 of her 8 break points, against just 15 unforced errors, in the 72-minute victory to line up Kerber next.
After winning Wimbledon in July, Barty lost in the first round of the Tokyo Olympics two weeks later but has regained her form here in Macon, Ohio.
“I feel like it’s nice to get a couple of matches now here in Cincy,” Barty said. “Each match you get to play in different conditions and you get more and more used to it.
“I’m just able to adjust and adapt and I look forward to my next one, no doubt.”
Off court, the Aussie has shared her views on the importance of morning coffee.
“I travel with a French press and an AeroPress, just to have two options,” she said. “Usually every tournament we go to, one of us has a café that we have been to before, so I have got a little section of all my local cafés from the tournaments, so we try and get out to those if we can.
“This year, some places we haven’t been able to; some places we have. It’s been nice to get some sort of a mixture, but I’m pretty simple.
“I’m just a black coffee cup in the morning, and then I’m set.”
Barty is level 3-3 in her series with Kerber, beating the 3-time Grand Slam winner in their most recent match, a Wimbledon semi-final, last month.
“Angie, she’s never been far off her best,” said Barty. “She never is. Even on some days where she’s not having or playing her best tennis, she finds a way to scrap and fight and stay in matches and give herself an opportunity.
“She’s one of the best competitors in the world. She knows how to play big tournaments, knows how to play big matches.
“She’s really locked down into the Angie of old, I think, in a sense where she’s confident, she’s aggressive, but she’s able to run and to move and put the ball in tricky spots, to not let you dictate too much.
“That’s a challenge of when you play against Angie – you have to ride a fine line of not pressing too much, but not being too defensive where she can move you around the court. ”
Kerber, a former Wimbledon champion, led 6-4, 4-3 against 11th-seeded Petra Kvitova when the Czech retired with a stomach issue.
The German left-hander has now won 14 of her last 15 matches, with her lone loss coming to Barty.
Kerber and Kvitova have a 14-year rivalry and their 16th encounter began with a serve-dominated first set that featured few rallies and was edged by Kerber, after the Czech coughed up 2 double-faults and 2 forehand errors at 4-4 for the sole break.
The Czech left-hander, who had revealed that she was ‘fighting with a health issue’ following her third-round win over Ons Jabeur, began to visibly struggle as the second set got underway.
Kvitova took a 3-0 lead in the second set by way of all-out first-strike shotmaking, and needed an emergency bathroom break after the second game, but Kerber adjusted to playing an ailing opponent and clawed her way back to 3-3 before the Czech called it quits, retiring due to gastrointestinal illness.
“I stayed out there as long as I could,” Kvitova later tweeted. “I have been struggling with a stomach issue for several days and unfortunately couldn’t finish the match today.
“Good luck Angie – sorry to end it that way – and can’t wait for the next battle with you.”
Kerber, who defeated Kvitova in a 3rd-set tiebreak in June’s Bad Homburg semi-finals, levels their overall head-to-head at 8 wins apiece with the result as the World No 22 moves into her 3rd straight semi-final, and 3rd in Cincy following final runs in 2012 and 2016.
Pliskova also won by retirement as Spain’s Paula Badosa had to stop play down 7-5, 2-0 due to a right shoulder injury.
The 5th-seeded Czech becomes the favourite against surprise wild-card Teichmann, who kept her run going by topping fellow Swiss and 10th seed Belinda Bencic, 6-3 6-2.
“We hugged before the match, we hugged after the match,” Teichmann said. “We know that once we step on court it’s business, it’s just another player I have to deal with, and she had the same mindset.
“At the beginning it’s obviously a bit special, but once we’re in it, we just look at the game, not looking at the opponent, or at least I do that way.”