PIX: Barty storms into semis; Halep through

World number one Ashleigh Barty delighted the Memorial Drive crowd by breezing through to the Adelaide International semi-finals with a comfortable 6-3 6-4 victory over Sofia Kenin on Friday to set up a meeting with defending champion Iga Swiatek.

Barty, the 2020 Adelaide champion, dominated from the start and showed no signs of the rust on display in her win over Coco Gauff in the previous round of the Australian Open warm-up event.

In their first meeting since Kenin upset Barty in the 2020 Australian Open semi-final, the American struggled with her serve while her top-ranked opponent was nearly flawless, producing 17 aces and winning 31 of 32 first serve points.

Barty notched the crucial break midway through the opening set and carried that momentum through to the second, wrapping up the win in just over an hour without facing a single break point.

“I felt pretty good today. I was able to look after my service games pretty well and it was a lot of fun playing out here and getting more court time,” Barty said.

“It’s nice to come out here and be tested from the start and know that you need to bring your very best level. Looking at these last two matches, there’s still work to do.”

Former French Open champion Swiatek earned her spot in the last four in contrasting fashion after being made to sweat by twice major winner Victoria Azarenka in an entertaining 6-3 2-6 6-1 win that lasted nearly two hours.

The Polish fifth seed dictated play with her powerful forehand as she took the first set before Azarenka hit back in the second, taking advantage of Swiatek’s unsteady serve while advancing to the net at every opportunity.

But the 20-year-old Swiatek eventually pulled away in the decider as Azarenka’s movement was severely hampered by a right thigh injury.

The Belarusian later withdrew from her doubles semi-final — where she was partnering Paula Badosa — due to the injury, handing a walkover to Darija Jurak Schreiber and Andreja Klepac.

Earlier on Friday, seventh seed Elena Rybakina fought back from a set down to prevail 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in her quarter-final against American Shelby Rogers.

Rogers, who knocked out sixth seed Maria Sakkari in the previous round of the WTA 500 event, raced 4-1 ahead before closing out a strong opening set but Rybakina got the only break in the second and carried that lead to force a decider.

Rybakina won 90% of her first serve points in the final set and sent down five aces en route to closing out the win in just over two hours. She will face either Japan’s Misaki Doi or Slovenian Kaja Juvan for a place in the final.

Defending champion Iga Swiatek takes on two-times Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka later on Friday.

In the men’s Adelaide ATP 250 event, top seed Gael Monfils of France beat American Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the semi-finals after third seed Marin Cilic rolled past Serbia’s Laslo Djere 6-3, 6-2.

Second seed Karen Khachanov faces Belarusian qualifier Egor Gerasimov while local hope Thanasi Kokkinakis takes on Mikael Ymer of Sweden.

Halep battles past Golubic to reach semis in Melbourne

Two-times Grand Slam champion Simona Halep was made to work hard for a victory by sixth seed Viktorija Golubic on Friday, as the Romanian prevailed 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to reach the semi-finals of the Melbourne Summer Set 1 WTA tournament.

World number 20 Halep looked in control during the first set but allowed her Swiss opponent back into the contest in the next and appeared frustrated at times in the decider, where both players freely traded breaks early on.

An error-prone Halep continued to struggle on her serve and smashed her racquet before breaking for a 5-4 lead and heaved a big sigh of relief when she sealed the win on Rod Laver Arena.

“It was really difficult,” Halep said. “I didn’t trust that I could win the match, but I fought. She played unbelievable tennis so I’m happy I could be stronger in the end.”

She next faces China’s Zheng Qinwen, who advanced with a battling 7-6(1), 7-6(8) win over unseeded Ana Konjuh.

Former world number one Naomi Osaka takes on German Andrea Petkovic later on Friday, after third seed Veronika Kudermetova meets Anastasia Potapova in an all-Russian clash on Margaret Court Arena.

Rafael Nadal’s hopes of getting some much-needed practice in before the January 17-30 Australian Open were dashed when Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor pulled out of their quarter-final clash with an unspecified injury.

The Spanish world number six, who brought a premature end to his 2021 season with a left foot issue, beat qualifier Ricardas Berankis on Thursday before withdrawing from his doubles clash.

The 20-times Grand Slam winner will meet Emil Ruusuvuori in the semi-finals, after the Finn eased past Alex Molcan 6-2, 6-1.

Third-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov meets Botic van de Zandschulp, while Nadal’s doubles partner Jaume Munar takes on American Maxime Cressy in the other last-eight clash.

Russian Daria Kasatkina shook off a slow start to beat Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 7-5, 6-1 in the Melbourne Summer Set 2 tournament, with American Amanda Anisimova also advancing to the semis.

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