ADELAIDE: Ashleigh Barty won a re-match of last year’s French Open final Thursday as the Australian reached the semi-finals of the ATP-WTA Adelaide International.
The top seed dominated Czech tournament number eight Marketa Vondrousova 6-3, 6-3, to thrill home fans at Memorial Drive in the inaugural edition of the event.
Vondrousova was playing her first tournament in six months after injuring her left wrist.
Barty advanced to a Friday semi against American Danielle Collins, a 6-3, 6-1 winner over Swiss fourth seed Belinda Bencic.
She won the opening set with just one break, but was made to work in the second, saving four break points to hold on for 5-3 before putting away the win.
“I feel my game is getting better and better,” Barty said.
“I could have been a bit more clinical in my game, but it was good to generate opportunities for myself.
Barty, who also beat Collins on the way to her Paris trophy is expecting a battle in the semi-final.
“Danielle is an exceptional ball-striker, she can take the match right out of your hands,” she said.
“She plays extremely aggressive. I’ll need to put on my running shoes tomorrow.”
There was a quarter-final shock for two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep, who heads into the Australian Open with room for improvement after being upset 6-4, 6-2 by Aryna Sabalenka.
The reigning Wimbledon champion and former world number one dropped serve five times and was flattened in the second set by her opponent from Belarus.
The 71-minute rout leaves Halep standing 1-1 for the season with the first Grand Slam of the year starting on Monday in Melbourne.
Sabalenka will battle Dayana Yastremska on Friday for a place in the final after the Ukrainian 19-year-old beat a second top 20 opponent this week when she put out Croat Donna Vekic 6-4, 6-3.
Sabalenka, ranked 12th to Halep’s fourth, won her first match after two losses to the Romanian, coached by Australian Darren Cahill.
“It feels great, we had a tough match and she played well,” Sabalenka said.
“I tried to stay focused on each point. “I don’t care about the Grand Slam, I’m just playing each match. “I didn’t care about the past, I stayed in the moment, that helped me to win.”
Yastremska, ranked 24th, was thrilled to get past Vekic.
“It’s nice to be in the semi-finals just in the beginning of the year,” she said.
“I have a big goal for Australia, but I’m going to try to stay really realistic and play match by match. That’s all I can think about.”
In men’s play, Canadian second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime swept the last 10 games to crush Australian wild card Alex Bolt 6-3, 6-0 in 54 minutes, losing just four points on serve during the rout.
“This is as good as it gets for sure,” the 19-year-old said. “It was my best match ever on serve, one of my most solid of the year.
Auger-Aliassime faces a semi-final with Russian third seed Andrey Rublev, who defeated Brit Daniel Evans 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 and won the title last week in Doha to start the season.
“He’s one of the hottest players right now,” the Canadian said.
“If I can bring my ‘A’ game, I believe in my chances.”
South African Lloyd Harris beat Spanish fourth seed Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-3 to book only the second semi-final of his career.
The qualifier, who lost just seven points on serve, will face Tommy Paul of the US, who beat Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4.
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