Barty saves match point to advance at Miami Open

Miami, Mar 25 (efe-epa).- World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty nearly crashed out of the Miami Open in her opening contest, but she found her game just in time to eke out a 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 victory Thursday afternoon over Kristina Kucova.

Barty seemed to have her round-of-64 match firmly under control when she rallied from an early deficit and grabbed the first set, which she won despite putting only 44 percent of her first serves in play.

Her continued low first-serve percentage, however, cost her in the second set, when she put only 47 percent of her first deliveries in play and was broken by her Slovak opponent on two occasions, including in the final game.

In the decider, Barty nearly hit her way out of the tournament with numerous forehand unforced errors and some careless misses on the backhand side, including a drop shot in the net that gave Kucova a match point when she was serving at 5-3.

The 2019 Miami Open champion, however, dug deep to get back on serve and then broke once again to take a 6-5 lead in the third set.

The afternoon had one more twist when Barty fell behind 0-40 when serving for the contest, but she reeled off the last five points to emerge victorious in just under two and a half hours.

Despite her erratic performance, the Australian said in an on-court interview that she “enjoyed every minute” of her tougher-than-expected second-round victory.

The winner of the 2019 French Open will next take on the 2017 Roland Garros champion, big-hitting Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, in the round of 32 of this elite hard-court event.

In other women’s singles round-of-64 action Thursday at this WTA Premier Mandatory event, the reigning French Open champion, Polish world No. 16 Iga Swiatek, cruised past the Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova 6-4, 6-2, fifth-ranked Ukrainian Elina Svitolina topped American Shelby Rogers 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 and eighth-ranked Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka squeaked past Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova 0-6, 6-3, 7-6 (11-9).

The top seed on the men’s side, Russian world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev will take on Chinese Taipei’s Lu Yen-hsun on Friday in his opening match at the Miami Open, one of the ATP Tour’s Masters 1000 tournaments.



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