Ash Barty beats Karolina Pliskova to reach semi-finals


World number one Ashleigh Barty fought back to reach the semi-finals of the WTA Stuttgart clay tournament with a 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory over Karolina Pliskova on Friday.

“It was an incredible game, with two very different opening sets, and the third was amazing,” Barty said after his 18th win this year.

“I felt like I created a lot of opportunities and Karolina was able to come up with quality stuff on huge points.

“It was a very good battle.”

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The Australian, who turns 25 on Saturday, rallied after a dream first set in the quarter-finals against Pliskova, who beat Barty twice.

However, Barty broke the Czech to start the second set and begin his recovery. 2018 Stuttgart champion Pliskova served for the game at 5-4 in the deciding match, but couldn’t close it as Barty converted her fifth break point into a marathon match.

Barty then insisted on loving and took the win in the next game on his second match point.

“I missed a few comebacks, but Karolina is a fierce competitor who has been at the top of her game for a long time,” said Barty, the 2019 Roland Garros winner.

“I knew I had to do something special to clear my way and get back on my terms. Barty will face fourth seed Elina Svitolina in Saturday’s semifinal after the Ukrainian made a remarkable comeback in her 6-7 (4/7), 7-5, 6-2 win over Petra Kvitova.

Svitolina was down 5-2 in the second set but saved two match points as she won five rebound games against 2019 champion Kvitova.

She beat the two-time Wimbledon winner twice in the third set to complete an unlikely quarter-final turnaround.

“It was a really tough battle, I was expecting a big game but I didn’t think it would be that hard,” admitted Svitolina.

The world number five has lost her last two matches to Barty, most recently in the semi-finals of this year’s Miami tournament.

“We faced each other in Miami a few weeks ago, we know each other’s game very well, so I can’t wait,” said Svitolina.

Second seed Simona Halep is yet to lose a set in Stuttgart as she reached the semi-finals with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova.

After losing her previous two games to the Russian, Halep said she learned from her loss at the Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne earlier this year.

“I knew she would play fast and flat, so I had to make her run more – I learned my lesson,” Halep said.

“It’s a big plus to have beaten these two girls who beat me before,” she said after also beating Czech Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets on Thursday.

In her semi-final, Halep will face either fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus or Stuttgart 2019 finalist Anett Kontaveit.

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