In an all-American affair at the China Open on Wednesday, qualifier Jennifer Brady came back from a set and a break down to upset her 11th-seeded countrywoman Madison Keys, 2-6 6-4 6-4, to reach the third round.
I played a pretty stupid set. I made probably over 20 errors in that second set, and cheap ones in rolls, in twos and threes in a row, which is disappointing. Not things that I like to do Ashleigh Barty
The World No 66 Brady turned the match around after falling behind a set and 3-1, eventually steering past Keys after an hour and 56 minutes of play, and earning her fourth Top 20 win of the season in the process.
Next up for Brady is the winner of the last remaining second-round match, between 5th-seeded US Open champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada and Elise Mertens of Belgium.
Keys was under duress in 2 of her first 3 service games of the match, but was able to fend off 3 break points during that stretch to reach 3-2.
That steeliness paid dividends when she attained her first break in the very next game, using powerful groundstrokes to tee up a backhand winner and take a 4-2 lead.
The No 11 seed continued to ease past Brady as the set continued, using high quality serving to hold for 5-2, then cracking a handful of blistering returns on her way to a set point in the following game.
She converted that chance with another winner off the forehand side, giving her a fourth straight game and the one-set lead.
Brady quickly fell behind in the second set as well, hitting 3 consecutive double faults from game point up to drop serve and hand a 2-0 lead to Keys, but she finally converted a break point in the next game, firing an error-forcing forehand to pull back on serve.
Keys pulled ahead 3-1, but miscues off of her forehand conceded another break to Brady, who began to get the measure of enduring rocketing returns more often, and the qualifier held through to 4-4, as the momentum of the match began to shift.
Brady saw a break point in the next game after a double fault by her opponent, and Keys followed up by blasting a forehand long to give Brady a pivotal lead at 5-4.
Energised by her newfound advantage, Brady zoomed through a service hold to love, including 2 service winners, to clinch the second set after twice being a break behind.
In the final set, the qualifier hung in with her seeded countrywoman throughout, and it was Brady who grabbed the decisive break, converting her third opportunity at 3-all to go up.
Brady went on to serve for the match at 5-4, and gained a match point with a superb forehand passing winner.
A final forehand struck long by Keys gave Brady the comeback victory and a spot in the third round.
“[Keys is] obviously a very tough opponent,” Brady said, after her win. “She’s very strong, very powerful, hits huge strokes. If you give her any time or a short ball, the point’s over.
“The first set and a half, I would say I wasn’t playing my game, I was just letting her dictate and take control and be the one in charge.
“I think it was just mentally, being able to stay in there and fight,” Brady added. “Not give in, not look at the score, just stay positive and stay within myself.
“Look to play my game and be more aggressive, knowing that if I stay in there, things can happen. And they did. I was happy they did.”
As it turned out, Brady’s next opponent is US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, who extended her undefeated run to 16 straight matches after a 6-3 7-6(5) victory over Elise Mertens of Belgium, which sent her into the round of 16 at the China Open on Wednesday.
In a rematch of their US Open quarter-final clash, which went the distance, the No 5 seed triumphed again in just under 2 hours of closely contested action.
It was an intense battle in which Andreescu claimed the most important points with gusto, converting 5 of her 6 break points while saving 8 of the 12 break points she faced.
She erased a 1-4 deficit in the second set, saved a set point at 4-5, and fought back from 1-3 down in the tiebreak to take the win.
The match began with both players double faulting on break point in their opening service games, but Andreescu found her range, firing a forehand winner to reach break point at 3-2, which she converted for a third consecutive break of Mertens’s serve.
The Canadian fended off a break point herself with a fierce forehand as she picked up a hold for 5-2, and reached triple set point two games later with a crosscourt winner from that wing.
Mertens held 3 break points at 1-0 in the second, and went up 2-0 on the third, going on to clinch a love hold for 4-1 and earning another break point for a 5-1 lead.
She was extremely close to pulling the match into a decider, but Andreescu is deft at digging herself out of holes and she gritted out the hold for 4-2, and cranking up her efforts to get back on serve at 4-3.
The 19-year old Canadian pocketed the 10-minute game to tie the set at 4-4, saving 2 more break points in the process.
Nonetheless, Mertens still found herself a point away from a third set, as a long forehand by Andreescu gave the Belgian set point at 5-4, but a superlative rally erased the Belgian’s chance, and the US Open champion held on for 5-5.
As the rallies became lengthier, every penetrating shot steered them into the tiebreak where another long rally gave Mertens the first mini-break.
Andreescu’s forehand helped pull her back from 1-3 down to 3-3 and although Mertens went ahead 5-4, the Canadian clinched her next 2 service points, teeing up match point at 6-5 and a backhand fired on the baseline drew an error from Mertens, sealing the hard-fought victory in straight sets.
Later she gave a little insight into her character, admitting that the first time she watched a video of one of her matches with her coach, she recoiled at what she saw.
“A lot of people don’t like hearing themselves in a video,” the teenager. “Oh man, when I was screaming ‘c’mons’, I was cringing so hard.”
She may have found it unbearable in parts, but the World No 6 plans to pore over her matches with her coach Sylvain Bruneau more often in future.
“I always watch it on my own, he usually does his own thing as well,” Andreescu said after defeating Mertens to reach the last 16.
“The next morning we’ll talk about it.
“Last night we sat together and watched it. I think that’s a really effective tool because we can both talk about the match.
“I think you see different things. I usually don’t like watching myself play, but I think it’s very useful.”
Top seed Ashleigh Barty set up her fourth meeting of the year with Petra Kvitova after dousing local hopes in a gritty three-set win over Saisai Zheng.
A strong serving display got Barty out of jail, the World No 1 unbroken in the 2 hour 32 minute battle, and she eventually triumphed, 6-3 6-7(5) 6-2.
It should have been a straight sets win, and with break points surprisingly hard to come by for Barty in the first set, given her dominance, she talked things over with her coach, Craig Tyzzer, as Zheng received treatment during the interval, and crafted 2 immediately.
Both were saved, and although Barty replied with her 350th ace on Tour this season, it marked a change of pattern in the match as Zheng suddenly became untouchable on serve, stringing together 3 love service holds in succession, a run of 15 points in total.
Crucially, the hometown favourite was unable to make an impression on the Barty delivery and the Aussie had several chances to close out the match before being forced into a tiebreak.
The Australian sprayed 42 errors from her racket and allowed Zheng to pinch the second set after looking on track for a straight-sets win.
A sloppy start to the tiebreak brought Zheng back into the match, Barty going down 6-1 before reeling off 4 points to drag herself back into the contest, but the Chinese wasn’t to be denied and served out the set.
A lengthy break ensued as Zheng left the court for well over 11 minutes, leaving an increasingly frustrated Barty to wait to start the decider, which turned out to be largely one-way traffic.
The Aussie secured 2 breaks and the match with a degree of irritation at the increasing time her Chinese opponent, who was apparently injured, was taking between points.
It was Barty’s 50th win of 2019 and she becomes the second player to reach the milestone this year, drawing level with Karolina Pliskova as the joint-Tour leader.
“I played a pretty stupid set. I made probably over 20 errors in that second set, and cheap ones in rolls, in twos and threes in a row, which is disappointing. Not things that I like to do,” Barty assessed.
“Let her back in the match well and truly.
“I just had to reset [in the third]. I had to know that the match was well and truly on my racket. Happy with how we were able to respond in that third set. Overall, a frustrating night.
“But the beauty of this sport is that we’re still alive in the tournament. I’ve kind of got a fresh day come Friday [against Kvitova] where it can be a completely different game.”
The World No 1 is looking to put some distance between her and the chasing pack after easing into the quarter-final of the China Open.
With Pliskova, ranked No 2, crashing out in the first round, the French Open champion now has the opportunity to open up a healthy lead, having no points to defend from the corresponding stage last year.
She has already enhanced her rankings lead and can extend that substantially with a tournament victory Beijing.
She is also ready to give her best in the remaining events and gain the necessary boost ahead of the new season and her home Major in Melbourne.
Before that, Barty and the rest of the Aussie squad take on France in the final of the Fed Cup in front of the partisan crowd in Perth, and she cannot wait to defend the colours of her country during one of the most important weekends of her career.
“In some way, it was bizarre to win Roland Garros,” she told media in China. “It was obviously a dream come true for me to win, I never thought that it could happen or would happen. It was an amazing tournament for me and I think the last match was incredible.
“The battle for No 1 spot is incredible; there are so many players who are really close and had some fantastic results.
“I’m trying to give my best here in China, to win as many matches as possible and hold the top position.
“It’s important for me to try and finish up the season well and then take time in the offseason well before refreshing a bit.
“I am not worried much about the upcoming Australian summer, looking forward to playing at home again.
“When I quit tennis, I needed some time to rest and an opportunity to play cricket came up.
“They are very different sports technically and skills don’t match but it was a fantastic time in my life and I met some incredible new friends, I’m still in contact with a lot of them.
“We are playing the Fed Cup final at home in Perth and it is a huge chance for us, it would be incredible to win the title in front of the home fans.
“We are very excited to get to Perth and playing against the strong French squad, which is always a tough ask.”
Meanwhile, Kvitova made much lighter work of Belinda Bencic, registering a 6-3 6-3 win, withstanding a stern challenge from the Swiss.
“I think from the beginning, we were both a bit nervous, but I think it was a solid match from both of us,” Kvitova said after the match. “I put in a lot of first serves, which helped me a lot, even if I was down a break in the second, which was pretty difficult mentally.
“She really went for her shots, but I was able to break her back. It was a good match from my side.”
Runner-up in Beijing 5 years ago, the two-time Wimbledon champion rallied from a break down in the second set to dispatch the 9th seed in an hour and 27 minutes on Lotus Court.
“She was expecting more serves to the backhand side because I’m a lefty, but I think I was good at mixing things up,” observed Kvitova, the 7th seed.
“I made many aces out wide, but I really had to mix it up because she sees the game very well, and it’s difficult to play the second serve because she goes for it and puts the pressure back on me.”
Kvitova, a semi-finalist at last week’s Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open, nevertheless enjoyed the better start, striking a whopping 16 winners as she drew first blood in the opening set and breaking serve once more behind a strong return to close in on victory.
“I’m seeing the ball a bit better than before, thanks to being able to spend more time on court,” she said.
“The matches have been the best preparation I could ever have, so it’s good to have that good timing again.
“The courts are a little slower compared to Wuhan, so I’m just glad to have had two days to adjust before my first match.”
She ended with a positive differential, hitting 33 winners to 30 unforced errors, 13 aces, and winning 82% of points behind her first serve while converting 4 of 8 break point opportunities.
Bencic, by contrast, will rue 25 unforced errors against 9 winners, and engineered just 2 break chances against the big-serving Kvitova.
Now standing between the Czech and a place in the China Open semi-finals is Barty.
“It’s nice to play her. She plays differently. It’s maybe our fourth meeting this year. She’s in great form; what can we say? She’s No 1. It will be nice and I’m looking forward to sharing the court with her.
The Czech and Barty have faced off 3 times already this year, Kvitova winning in Sydney and at the Australian Open before Barty extracted a measure of revenge in Miami.
“I love playing Petra. I really do,” said Barty. “I don’t have the greatest record against her.
“She is an opponent that I love to test myself against. It’s an extremely difficult match-up. It’s always a tricky one for me.
“There are bits and pieces that I take out of that match from Miami tactically. There are bits and pieces I take out of the match from Sydney. I was really close there. Then in Melbourne, she was able to exploit a few things.
“She’s one of the best human beings on the WTA Tour. It’s always nice to be able to share the court with her. Come Friday, we’re going to have hopefully another good match.”
In other matches on Wednesday, Kiki Bertens, the 8th seed, eventually proved too solid for Polona Hercog, and came through, 7-6(6) 2-6 6-3, while Elina Svitolina, the 3rd seed, toiled into the early hours of the morning to overcome Sofia Kenin, 6-3 6-7(8) 6-3, in 2 hours and 29 minutes, ending at 1:10 am in Beijing.
Bertens, who remains in hot pursuit of a berth at the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, shook off a second set struggle to defeat the unseeded Hercog in 2 hours and 18 minutes as night fell on Lotus Court.
Svitolina came through to her 11th quarter-final of the year after battling past her recent nemesis and next faces Bertens.