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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, June 21, 2019

Riding the longest winning streak of her career, Ashleigh Barty says her success is a product of years of hard work and some celestial support: "the stars have aligned."

A streaking Barty continues her ascent toward the top of the world.

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Barty reeled off 11 of the final 14 games defeating Venus Williams, 6-4, 6-3, to stretch her winning streak to 10 matches surging into the Birmingham semifinals for the second time in the last three years.

Barty broke in four of Williams' last seven service games in rallying from a 1-4 deficit, raising her record to 34-5. 

The 23-year-old Aussie has been in charge throughout much of her winning streak earning straight-sets triumphs in eight of  her last 10 matches.

The second-ranked Barty now stands two wins away from surpassing Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka for the top spot.

Reigning Roland Garros champion Barty can surpass Osaka and become the first Australian woman to seize the No. 1 ranking since Hall of Famer Evonne Goolagong in 1976 by winning the Birmingham title. If Barty reaches the final and falls, Osaka will retain the top spot—and earn the top seed for next month's Wimbledon—by two points, which would be the smallest margin between the world's top two in WTA history.

Next up for Barty is a Saturday semifinal against Czech veteran Barbora Strycova, who stopped Kristyna Pliskova, 6-2, 6-4, in 72 minutes.

Earlier, Petra Martic showed stiff resistance saving five match points and fighting back from a one-set, 2-5 deficit to stun  Jelena Ostapenko, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-1 in two hours, 22 minutes.

The 2017 Roland Garros champion betrayed her own cause with an eye-popping 20 double faults against two aces.

Despite the service struggles, Ostapenko served for the semifinals at 5-3, but Martic converted her third break point to break.

Ostapenko barged out to a triple match point in the ensuing game only to see Martic fend off all three. Ostapenko gained two more match points, but Martic denied those, too, bursting through five consecutive games to snatch the second set and force a decider.

Contesting her first career grass-court quarterfinal, the 25th-ranked Martic stormed through six straight games to book her semifinal spot as Ostapenko was haunted by lost opportunity.

Playing for her first semifinal of the season, the 39-year-old Williams jumped out to a 4-1 lead.

Resetting, Barty exploited the American's double fault and dragged Williams forward with the short slice drawing an errant forehand to break back in the seventh game.

Varying the depth of her slice backhand to lure the 6'1" American  into awkward positions oncourt, Barty wielded the low slice effectively drawing another error from Williams scoring her second straight break for 5-4.

A Williams drive tripped on top of tape dribbled over net, Barty read it moved up to ball and pushed forehand inside the line for a second set point. Barty banged an ace out wide reeling off her fifth straight game for 6-4.

The Roland Garros champion hit seven more winners—10 to 3—than the five-time Wimbledon champion building a one-set lead.


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