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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, May 3, 2021

Ash Barty

World No. 1 Barty stopped reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek 7-5, 6-4 to roar into the Mutua Madrid Open quarterfinals where she'll face another Grand Slam champion, Petra Kvitova.

Photo credit: Albert Nevado/Mutua Madrid Open

Altitude in Madrid can create confounding bounces and tactical tests.

In a clash of clay-court queens, Ashleigh Barty deciphered challenges and delivered elevation stretching one streak and snapping another.

More: Roland Garros Will Welcome Fans Back

World No. 1 Barty stopped reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek 7-5, 6-4 setting up a Mutua Madrid Open quarterfinal vs. three-time Madrid champion Petra Kvitova

The 2019 French Open champion scored her 14th straight red clay victory, while snapping Swiatek's streak of 18 straight sets on red dirt.

Versality and adaptability are among the Aussie's assets. Barty served with purpose and played pivotal points with a bit more care and creativity.

"I think probably the first half an hour was a bit of an adjustment period for both of us," Barty said. "I think it took me some time to get used to Iga's weight of shot. Obviously we had a game plan going into it, but I had to adjust that and had to kind of learn on the fly a little bit.

"It took me some time to get used to that and kind of nut down what I really wanted to do out there. Once I was able to do that, I became a lot more clear and was able to control the match a little bit more the way that I wanted to."

The top seed saved six of seven break points, including digging out of a triple break point hole in the second set, while converting all three break points she earned.

This blockbuster night battle in Madrid saw Swiatek surge to a 3-0 lead before Barty began to impose her ball-control attack winning seven of the next nine games to take the opening set. 

Swiatek slid an ace off the T holding at 15 to open.

The 14th-seeded is a contrast in stroke styles. Swiatek uses a westen grip and sweeping swing to generate her heavy topspin forehand that jumps off the court and can hammer her flat two-handed backhand on the rise like a woman knocking off low-hanging fruit with a hatchet. Swiatek showed that shot disparity earning two break points.

The top seed struggled to locate her first serve but smacked aces erasing a pair of break points.  On her fourth break point, Swiatek drew a netted forehand breaking for 2-0.

Apprehension is not part of the Aussie's game plan. Barty has won 10 of her 11 three-setters this season in part because she's a savvy problem solver.

Firing her fourth ace, Barty broke the shutout in the fourth game getting on the board after 21 minutes. Reading the Pole's jumping topspin better, Barty was sometimes jumping into her forehand earning break points in the fifth game. Swiatek double faulted back the break in the fifth game.

Deadlocked at 4-all, Swiatek hit her spots on serve, navigating the hold to put the pressure back on Barty's shoulders.

During her 18-set winning streak on red clay, four games was the most Swiatek had surrendered in a single set. Mixing her serve spins and locations shrewdly, Barty stamped a strong hold in the 10th game.

Then the reigning Roland Garros champion blinked. Swiatek spit up successive double faults to start the 11th game then stuck her third double fault of the game into net to face break point. Barty broke on an error for 6-5.

The top seed surged through seven of the last nine games to snap Swiatek's streak of 18 straight sets on red clay. Rallying from 0-3 down, Barty snatched the 56-minute opener despite serving just 45 percent. When Barty landed her first serve she won 17 of 21 first-serve points.

Skimming the tape with a slice backhand, Barty lured the world No. 17 forward and spun a forehand pass breaking for a 2-1 second-set lead.  Barty barged through a love hold to consolidate in the fourth game.

Staring down a triple break point test in the sixth game, a stubborn Barty showed poise and precision. Landing some stinging first serves and tossing in a defensive full-stretch moonball, Barty erased all three break points. A loopy high ball to Swiatek's two-hander drew another netted error as Barty successfully dug out of love-40 hole to hold for 4-2. 

Persistent precision under pressure distinguished Barty in this match. Facing a 15-30 deficit in the eighth game, Barty banged a pair of aces dissolving dilemma for 5-3.

The Stuttgart champion closed in one hour, 41 minutes. Surely, these two may well meet again before clay season is over. Next up for Barty is the dangerous Kvitova.

The ninth-seeded Kvitova saved three of four break points in a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Veronika Kudermetova in two hours. Kvitova, who raised Madrid title trophies in 2011, 2015 and 2018 improved to 32-7 lifetime in Madrid.  

Tennis Express

Kvitova has beaten Barty in five of nine meetings, though the two-time Miami Open champion has won four of their last five encounters.

"Of course, she has a game for clay very well," Kvitova said of Barty. "She's sliding. She's playing lots of slice and everything. Of course it's about the few points. I mean, of course she likes clay a little bit more than me probably. I like Madrid. So who knows, right?

"I mean, I'm really looking forward. Always playing Ash, it's great challenge. It will be great matchup. I really will enjoy it. I'm really looking forward for it."


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