Australia’s Ash Barty continued her impressive run at the French Open on Monday, emphatically dismissing American Sofia Kenin after dropping the second set.
It was my first time this week playing on this beautiful court (Philippe Chatrier) and I just wanted to come out here and enjoy it, To play with fight, play with freedom and enjoy myself. Ashleigh Barty
Despite the wobble, Barty is looking more and more like a Grand Slam champion as she barrelled over Kenin in the decider, ending the run of the 20-year-old American with a 6-3 3-6 6-0 victory and confirming herself as the only player to reach the last 8 at each of this year’s first two majors.
Barty hit 11 aces in the 90-minute match on Court Philippe Chatrier as the 23-year-old, who reached a career-high world No 5 on Monday, recovered from a second set fightback from Kenin to race through the third set.
She sped to an early 5-1 lead, wrapping up the opening set on serve after Kenin briefly threatened a comeback by pulling one break back.
Finding her range, the American surged ahead in the second, going up 3-0, pushing her opponent around the court as she had in beating 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the previous round.
She saved two break points at 5-3 and levelled at her 3rd attempt when the Aussie fluffed a forehand.
In the end, though, Barty blitzed through the final set to book her spot in the last 8 in Paris, deploying her slice backhand frequently in the decider to draw errors from the American as she jumped out to an early 2-0 lead.
Barty found an ace exactly when she needed it, blasting one on game point to notch a 3-0 advantage.
Just as in the first two sets, the player who jumped out to 3-0 ended up claiming the frame, although this one was completed with minimal fuss, as Barty broke Kenin twice more to attain the bagel and queue up a meeting with Madison Keys in the quarter-finals.
“It was my first time this week playing on this beautiful court (Philippe Chatrier) and I just wanted to come out here and enjoy it,” Barty, who is also the first player on the WTA Tour to reach two Grand Slam quarter-finals so far this year, said.
“To play with fight, play with freedom and enjoy myself.”
The Australian, who won biggest title of her career at the Miami Open earlier this year, admitted she hadn’t been expecting to reach the quarters in Paris this year, but had been working hard to win every match she plays.
She was helped along by her serve to get her through the tilt, firing 11 aces and winning 76 percent of points on her first serve to extend her head-to-head lead over Kenin to 3-0.
Kenin, coming off of her noteworthy third-round upset of three-time Roland Garros champion Serena Williams, out-winnered Barty by 28 to 25, but was derailed by 29 unforced errors in total, to Barty’s 17.
Barty could leave Paris as high as second in the world if she wins the tournament, with top-five trio Angelique Kerber, Kiki Bertens and Petra Kvitova all early casualties or non-starters on the clay.
In advancing to her second-successive Grand Slam quarter-final, the No 8 seed closed to within 3 wins of becoming Australia’s first French Open singles champion since Margaret Court in 1973.
“Australia is behind you @ashbar96 Queensland gold!,” the great Rod Laver tweeted.
“You can go all the way, no question. I’ll be cheering hard. So proud. Rocket.”
In matching her charge to the last 8 at this year’s Australian Open, Barty is also only the 4th Australian woman to make the quarter-finals at Roland Garros since the legendary Court’s fifth title win 46 years ago, but the 23-year-old had to show great character to follow in the footsteps of Wendy Turnbull (1979, 1980), Dianne Fromholtz (1979,1980) and Fed Cup teammate Samantha Stosur (2009, 2010, 2012, 2016).
Barty will next face another American in Keys, who experienced little trouble in her 6-2 6-4 victory against Czech Katerina Siniakova.
On Court Suzanne Lenglen, Keys, the 14th seed, was always in control against the World No 42 Siniakova, advancing smoothly in light drizzle after 78 minutes.
Easing into a one-set lead Keys, a semi-finalist here last year, encountered some resistance from Siniakova, who bowed out on her serve when she sent a forehand long.
Keys, a model of consistency in majors, has now reached the last 8 in 4 of the last 6 Grand Slam events, and simply had too much for an opponent, who had reached the second week at such a standard for the first time in her career.
Siniakova, who had stunned WTA World No 1 Naomi Osaka to reach this stage, was unable to reprise such a performance, despite coming into this meeting on an 8-match winning streak against American opponents.
Having survived a near-2-hour 3-setter against qualifier Anna Blinkova in the third round, Keys enjoyed an altogether more comfortable passage in the Parisian drizzle.
“I was really happy to close it out as playing three sets in these heavy conditions does not sound like much fun,” admitted the 24-year-old Keys.
“I love clay courts, and Paris, and I am happy to play another match.”
Although the first 2 points went the way of her opponent, 10 in succession followed for the 24-year-old, whose hitting power forced errors with regularity, particularly in the early stages of the contest.
After 32 minutes, the opening set was sealed, Siniakova caught in limbo between the baseline and the net as the Keys sent a crushing forehand down the line past her.
The second proved to be altogether more competitive, with Siniakova finding an edge to her game that was previously missing.
The efficiency of the 23-year-old’s strokes improved, and their greater weight and accuracy meant that both her drop shots and her net play became more effective.
Having been dominant in the opening set, Keys stood firm in the face of this renewed challenge and the first 9 games all went with serve.
With Siniakova serving to stay in the match, the American found her very best tennis, crushing a succession of returns to set up a couple of match points, the first of which was taken as the Czech fired wide.
Barty awaits in the last 8, with Keys having defeated the Australian No 8 seed in their only previous clay-court meeting, at the 2017 French Open.