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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, April 1, 2021

Obsessive behavior isn't a burden for Ashleigh Barty.

A compulsive commitment to daily improvement has helped fuel Barty's drive into her second straight Miami Open final.

More: Hurkacz Surprises Tsitsipas in Miami

World No. 1 Barty brought her best tennis of the tournament today sweeping long-time nemesis Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 stretching her Miami Open winning streak to 11 matches.

The top seed served bigger—Barty spun seven aces compared to two for Svitolina—showed superior transition skills and asserted her aggression striking 27 winners to defeat the Ukrainian for the second time in a row following her 6-4, 6-4 triumph in the 2019 WTA Finals title match.

 "I think it was [my best match of the tournament]," Barty told Tennis Channel's Prakash Amritraj afterward.  I think Elina you have to produce your best tennis, without a doubt you have to produce your best, to compete with her.

"I felt today was gonna be a fine line sometimes press a little bit too much but other times hit through the court a little bit. I'm happy with the way we were able to execute today."

In conversation, Barty often uses "we"  referring to a team approach she takes with coach Craig Tyzzer. Together, the pair endured a near 50-hour odyssey of flights from Brisbane to Miami before the tournament began and have put in the daily practice work to prepare the 2019 Roland Garros champion for launch.

"I think every time you get on tje court you're trying to improve and do a little bit better and grow every single day," Barty said. "Every single match I've felt like I've done something a little bit better, that's all you can ask...Just try to get that little bit better each day... just try and do things the right way each day."

Today, Barty took flight after playing a bit of a head game with herself.

It's not often a world No. 1 looks up to an opponent, but reviewing her 1-5 career record against Svitolina prior to this quarterfinal, Barty took the record as an opportunity to play mental role reversal.

"With a head-to-head that we've had I almost see myself as the underdog, I really do and it gives me the chance to play with freedom," Barty said. "Not careless, but care-free tennis.

"It's just about trying to stick with the process and try to win the match."

Two years ago, Barty beat Karolina Pliskova in the final. On Saturday, she'll face either 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu or Greek Maria Sakkari, who snapped Naomi Osaka's 23-match winning streak with a 6-0, 6-4 quarterfinal upset.

Vast variety, the comfort level to play from anywhere on the court and her stinging serve helped the 24-year-old Aussie create separation early in both sets.

Wielding her unsettling slice to set up some crackling forehands, Barty broke twice in Svitolina's first three service games bursting out to a 4-1 lead. Svitolina jammed a backhand return down the line rattling out an error to break back in the sixth game.

Serving to extend the set at 3-5, Svitolina dodged a set point when Barty's backhand found the top of the tape.

Undaunted, the top seed continued firing her forehand with depth and precision probing the Ukrainian's backhand wing to coax an error for a one-set lead after 41 minutes.

"To be fair, it was a good match, all credit to Ash," Svitolina said. "She played some great pressure moments. I wish I could do a little bit better on my serve today, but she was holding the grounds very good and almost didn't let me to come back really into the match.

"Yeah, it was a really good performance from her. Maybe also in some ways she didn't let me play my best tennis."

The world No. 1 left the court after the set taking medical treatment for an apparent abdominal issue. It's an issue Barty has been coping with since her return in Melbourne in February though she downplayed it afterward. 

"A little bit sore, but I got some assistance with some tape on it," Barty said. "But knowing we've got a day to recover tomorrow [before Saturday's final] I'll be right as rain and good to go."

A strength of the Aussie's game is her skill dragging opponents into awkward spots. After the pair traded breaks in the fourth and fifth games, Barty lured Svitolina in where she slapped a drive into net falling into  a 2-4 hole.

One final forehand down the line finished it in 90 minutes. Barty raised her record to 13-2 on the season as she continues her quest for her 10th career title.


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