Tennis: Barty battles into Miami semi-finals

MIAMI (AFP) – World number one Ashleigh Barty advanced to the semi-finals of the Miami Open on Tuesday (March 30), battling past Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in three sets.

Barty progressed to a last four meeting against either Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova or Elina Svitolina of Ukraine with a 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3 win.

Australian star Barty, who had been taken to three sets in the last 16 by Sabalenka’s compatriot, Victoria Azarenka, was given another testing challenge in a hard-fought quarter-final battle.

After taking a close first set, Barty appeared to be on the brink of victory after grabbing a 3-1 lead in the second set tie-break.

Sabalenka staged a superb recovery, however, to snatch the tie-break 7-5 to force a decisive third set.

Barty regrouped in the third though and with Sabalenka clearly in pain clutching her stomach, rammed home her advantage to complete a deserved win.

In the men’s tournament on Tuesday, Roberto Bautista Agut eliminated American hope John Isner in three sets to avenge his 2019 quarter-final loss in Miami.

Bautista Agut saved a match point at 5-6 down in the third set tie-break to claim a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (9/7) win to reach the quarter-finals.

“John is a good friend on the Tour. He always makes matches difficult,” said Bautista Agut. “He has a very big serve and a lot of power from baseline with the forehand. It makes it always difficult.”

Bautista Agut will now face either top seed Daniil Medvedev or American Frances Tiafoe in the last eight.

Against Isner on Tuesday, Bautista Agut reaped the rewards from attacking Isner’s second serve to claim the first set.

Isner turned the tables to level in the second set, and appeared to have the momentum after taking a 3-0 lead in the final set tie-break.

However Bautista Agut dug in and saved a match point with a blistering forehand. Another forehand then forced an error from Isner at match point to send the Spaniard into the last eight.

“I think I played a brilliant set the first set, and then with John you feel always under pressure,” Bautista Agut said. “It was a really tough fight until the last point.”

In other last 16 matches on Tuesday, Italy’s 21st-seeded Jannik Sinner downed Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the last eight.

It is the first time the 19-year-old has reached the quarter-finals of an ATP Masters event.

“For me it means a lot,” Sinner said. “The first goal is always trying to improve day after day, going on practice courts and then when you have sometimes good results, it makes you happy.”

Sinner will play 32nd seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan in the quarter-finals. Bublik advanced to the last eight with a 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-4 win over 22nd-seeded Taylor Fritz of the United States.

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