Madrid, May 3 (EFE).- Australian world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty came out on top Monday night in a battle of the two most recent Roland Garros women’s singles champions, defeating Poland’s Iga Swiatek 7-5, 6-4 Monday to book a berth in the Madrid Open quarterfinals.
Barty stumbled out of the gates at Manolo Santana Stadium in this much-anticipated clay-court contest, feeling the sting of her 19-year-old opponent’s potent ground strokes and dropping her opening service game in part due to a pair of double faults.
But the world No. 17 and surprise 2020 French Open champion began struggling with her own serve from the fourth game onward, giving the Australian the opening she needed to reel off seven out of nine games and claim the first set after about an hour on court.
Barty won the first set despite putting just 46 percent of her first serves in play and committing four doubles faults.
Swiatek’s serving stats were even more unsightly in the opening set though, as she registered just a 44 percent first-serve percentage, double-faulted six times and failed to save either of the break points she faced.
The world No. 1 broke serve once again in the third game of the second set, but the Polish player began finding the range on her lethal forehand and backhand to hold serve in the fifth game and earn three break points with Barty serving at 3-2, 0-40.
The 25-year-old 2019 French Open champion, however, stormed back to take that game and then held her last two service games more comfortably to secure the victory.
Afterward, it was clear that Swiatek had gotten Barty’s attention.
“I really enjoyed myself out there tonight. I enjoyed the challenge. Iga’s game is exceptional. It’s really, really impressive,” Barty said after her round-of-16 victory. “I love testing myself and trying to figure out the puzzle tonight and the challenges that she created for me.”
Next up for the world No. 1 in Wednesday’s quarterfinals of this WTA Premier Mandatory event will be another big-hitting opponent, 12th-ranked Czech Petra Kvitova, who edged Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 on Monday.
Two other players also booked a quarterfinal match-up with victories on Monday: 11th-ranked Swiss Belinda Bencic, who was leading Ons Jabeur 7-6 (7-2), 4-3 when the Tunisian player retired with an injury; and Spain’s Paula Badosa, who pulled away from Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova 6-7 (0-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-0.
In men’s action at the Madrid Open, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event, precocious Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz routed France’s Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-0 to book a clash on his 18th birthday against countryman and 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal.
“They always say the 18th birthday is special, but it will be even more special to turn 18 (on Wednesday) playing against one of the best tennis players of all time, and the best for me,” the 120th-ranked wildcard said after his win. “Rafa is one of my childhood idols. It’s going to be very special.”
Most of the world’s best men and women are in action at the Madrid Open as they continue their preparations for tennis’ most prestigious clay-court tournament, Roland Garros, which will be held from May 30 to June 13. EFE