No. 1 Barty defeats Krejcikova to reach semis in Cincinnati

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Ashleigh Barty, of Australia, returns a shot to Barbora Krejcikova, of the Czech Republic, during the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Mason, Ohio. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

MASON, Ohio (AP) — Top-ranked Ash Barty defeated Barbora Krejcikova 6-2, 6-4 Friday to reach the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open.

Barty will next face two-time Cincinnati finalist Angelique Kerber, who won her quarterfinal when two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova retired during the second set because of a stomach problem. Kerber won the first set 6-4 and was tied 3-3 in the second.

Barty beat Kerber in the Wimbledon semifinals in July. They have split their six matches.

“She’s one the best competitors in the world,” Barty said. “Angie’s never far off her best. Even on days where she’s not playing her best tennis, she finds a way to stay in matches. When you play against Angie, you ride a fine line of not pressing too much, but also not being too defensive where she can move you around the court.”

Barty, ranked No. 1 for 87 weeks, hasn’t lost a set this week in Cincinnati, a tuneup for the U.S. Open.

Her biggest challenge came from Heather Watson in the second round. Barty has since dispatched of Victoria Azarenka and Krejcikova in straight sets.

The Australian was not deterred by the extreme heat and humidity in the morning’s first match at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.

“It was like a Brisbane summer day,” Barty said. “The heat’s certainly not a problem for me. It’s nice to play the first match. You know when your start time is, which is not very regular in the tennis world.”

Barty won 84% percent of first serves against Krejcikova and four of eight break points. She had only 15 unforced errors. Barty had seven aces Friday and has 15 in the tournament.

“I feel like I did a good job looking after my own serves,” she said. “I felt like a lot of the time I was in control of it. That just allowed me to be more free on Barbora’s service games. Overall, I was able to use my forehand and slice effectively.”

Barty won Wimbledon in July, but two weeks later was beaten in the first round of the Tokyo Olympics. She appears to have regained her stroke in Cincinnati.

“I feel like it’s nice to get a couple of matches now here in Cincy,” Barty said. “Each match you get to play in different conditions and you get more and more used to it. I’m just able to adjust and adapt and I look forward to my next one, no doubt.”

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