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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, May 5, 2021

ASh Barty

Ash Barty beat three-time champion Petra Kvitova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 scoring her 15th straight red clay victory to set up a Madrid semifinal vs. wild card Paula Badosa.

Photo credit: Alberto Nevado/Mutua Madrid Open

Facing three-time champion Petra Kvitova amid Madrid's altitude represents a stress test even for the elite.

Rising to the challenge, Ash Barty deployed all-court creativity and an unwavering focus subduing Kvitova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 surging into the Mutua Madrid Open semifinals with her 15th straight red clay victory.

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Decisive sets have been clean-up time for Barty, who raised her 2021 record to 24-3, including a sparkling 11-1 mark in three-setters to reach her first Madrid semifinal and fourth final four of the season.

"I think I started off particularly well, and I think Petra struggled to find the court a little bit," said Barty, who leveled her head-to-head with Kvitova at 5-5. "I felt like she gave me a lot of cheapies, particularly in runs, two, three, four in a game, which is always hard to kind of readjust and kind of almost tactically keep doing what you're doing, knowing that a lot of the times it was out of my hands.

"I think in the second set Petra served particularly well. I felt like she made a lot more first serves. Even the depth in the box on second serves she was able to get more one-two tennis, kind of what she likes. It was important for me to manufacture a break early in the third, just to break some momentum I think and try and find my way back in."

WTA ace leader Barty pumped six aces, won 20 of 32 second-serve points and saved five of seven break points in a match where her versatility defused Kvitova's explosiveness.

The world No. 1 will play Spanish wild card Paula Badosa for a spot in the Madrid final as she aims to avenge her lone clay-court loss since she won the 2019 Roland Garros. Badosa toppled Barty 6-4, 6-3 on the Har-Tru, commonly called green clay, of Charleston last month.

In the day's first quarterfinal, an inspired Badosa made history as the first Spanish woman to reach the Mutua Madrid Open semifinals beating Belinda Bencic 6-4, 7-5.

"It means a lot to do this result here at home and showing all my people that I'm through to my semifinals, so that's an amazing feeling," Badosa said. "I think what I'm most proud of all this week is how I did control my nerves during the week, because it wasn't easy, you know. Today I think it was the day that I was more nervous at all, because Belinda, she's an amazing player."

The 62nd-ranked Badosa broke in the penultimate game of both sets then dropped to her knees and kissed the clay in celebration with the best result of her career.

"And Ash, what can I say? She's No. 1 in the world," said Badosa, who was born in New York City, but lives and trains in Spain. "She's winning all the tournaments lately. I played her in Charleston. I expect a completely different match. She' sthe No. 1 in the world.

"Now she knows me. As I say, No. 1 in the world, they don't like to make mistakes two times in a row, so for sure I expect a tough match and completely different as Charleston."

The top-seeded Barty will try to get off to another fast start to mute Spanish fans.

"She's had an exceptional week," Barty said of Badosa. "Having played her just a couple of weeks ago, there are things from that match that I learnt, and we try and take those into account tomorrow as best we can and go out there and try and execute."

 Applying precision and mix-master spin skills, Barty effectively kept the ball out of the 6' Czech's strike zone, charging out to a 5-0 lead.

Sliding her slice around Kvitova's shoelaces at times, Barty dispensed her side-spinning forehand limiting Kvitova's looks at clean hits.

Dashing into the doubles alley, Barty hit a sharp-angled two-handed return, breaking at love in the second game before saving a break point to back up the break for 3-0.

Meanwhile, Kvitova managed just three points losing her first two service games.  Kvitova snapped the shutout with a quick hold for 1-5 after 23 minutes.

The world No. 1 served out a dominant half hour set at love. The Aussie used her kick serve to befuddle Kvitova: Barty won eight of 11 second-serve points and committed just four errors compared to 11 for the Czech in the opening set.

"I feel like no doubt when you play the best in the world, you have to bring your best level to be able to compete, and I really enjoy that challenge in tennis is testing myself against the very best in the world," Barty said. "I know that I have to play an exceptional level of tennis to be competitive. I think that challenge in itself really excites me, I think."

Resetting with a timeout before the start of the second set, Kvitova came out firing. The woman in black jumped all over a second-serve return drawing an error to break for a 2-0 advantage.

Targeting the Barty backhand, Kvitova dodged three break points then dug out a fine backhand volley on the surprise serve and volley to back up the break.

The two-time Wimbledon winner whipped her fourth ace down the T for her third love hold in her last four service games and a 4-1 lead.

Continuing to torment the Aussie's two-hander with her lefty crosscourt forehand, Kvitova was playing more assertive baseline tennis. Kvitova pumped her fifth ace for double set point then pounded a forehand down the line closing the second set.

Explosiveness and unpredictability make Kvitova a dangerous opponent, but Barty stayed the course to start the decider. Kvitova committed a cluster of forehand errors gifting the break to Barty in the second game.

Staring down break point in the third game, Barty froze her opponent with a second-serve ace angled out wide and short in the box. Barty's fourth ace of the match was a timely strike that confirmed the break for 3-0.

Another plot twist arrived as Kvitova dug out of a love-30 hole to hold in the fourth game. Barty's momentum carried her right into net as she fell to love-30 on her serve. Kvitova was cranking deep drives down the middle denying the Aussie angles as she broke back in the fifth game.

Slick racquet skills make Barty a joy to watch. She dug out a clever forehand lob winner for a third break point in the sixth game. This time, the top seed used the angled slice to draw a netted forehand earning her fourth break for 4-2.

Though Kvitova kept firing away, gaining three break points in the seventh game, Barty backed up her second serve with conviction. The 5'5" Aussie's ability to elevate up and out and hit the corner of the box with her kick serve helped her navigate a demanding hold for 5-2.

Tennis Express

A botched overhead gave Barty two match points, but Kvitova erased both eventually holding in the eighth game.

A Barty ace brought her three more match points. On her fourth match point, the world No. 1 dragged a forehand winner down the line ending a strong performance with a respectful hug for her fellow Grand Slam champion.

Next, Barty will embrace the challenge against the last woman to beat her on clay, home favorite Badosa.


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