BIRMINGHAM, UK - No.2 seed Ashleigh Barty showed her class on grass with a 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Jennifer Brady to move into the Nature Valley Classic quarterfinals for the second time.
The newly crowned Roland Garros champion has spoken this week about how winning her first major on her least favorite surface has not burdened her with expectations - but instead enabled her to play with less pressure on her beloved grass. This was even more evident today, during her second win in as many meetings with Brady this year, than it had been in the Australian's opener against Donna Vekic.
On Tuesday, Barty had needed to overcome a smattering of double faults before her game fully clicked. Today, the 23-year-old's serve was close to its best: landing 71% of her first deliveries, she would face only one break point during the entire match - in the fifth game of the second set, saved adeptly with a canny net-rush.
With this solid foundation, Barty was able to swing freely as she dissected Brady's power. Relentlessly opening the court with precisely placed forehands, the World No.2 managed to continuously take time away from the American, who was only intermittently able to set up to strike her heavy, spin-laden forehand.
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Carving out at least one break point opportunity in four out of Brady's five first-set service games, Barty's constant pressure paid off as she converted twice: once as a Brady double fault conceded the fifth game, and the second time as a deep return elicited an error from the World No.66 on Barty's first set point.
A rain delay in the second game of the second set failed to slow Barty's momentum in any way; if anything, on resumption the Miami champion was even more focused as she sped towards the finishing line. A number of ill-timed errors failed to help Brady's cause: a netted smash conceded the first break of the set in the fourth game, and a forehand sailed long to extend Barty's lead to 5-1.
As if to demonstrate the extent of the 2017 finalist's confidence, it was Barty's backhand that would seal a 59-minute win on her first match point, with a driven down-the-line winner off that wing wrapping up victory. Up next for the newest major winner will be an intriguing quarterfinal clash against either No.6 seed Wang Qiang or wildcard and five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams.