MIAMI, FL, USA - Ashleigh Barty confirmed her rise into the WTA’s Top 10 in emphatic style, claiming her first career win over No.3 seed Petra Kvitova in a late-night stunner at the Miami Open.
The No.12-seeded Aussie came into the matchup trailing 0-4 against Kvitova, including two defeats on home soil earlier in the season: Barty fell in a three-set heartbreaker against Kvitova in the final of Sydney and was later routed by the Czech at the Australian Open.
But Barty didn’t allow their previous history to dictate proceedings at the Miami Open, where she was through to her first ever Premier Mandatory quarterfinal. She weathered two hours of rain delays and subdued a relentless Kvitova to claim victory 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-2 in a battle that ended well past midnight.
“It was important for me to try and take Petra's serve away from her as much as possible,” Barty told press afterward. “She's got an absolute world-class serve.
“At times it was still out of my control, but I tried to do the best I could and tried to get into as many service games as I could, and I thought I did that really well tonight.”
The loss will surely sting for Kvitova, who lead by a break in the first set and held set points in the tiebreak: the Czech’s quest for the WTA World No.1 ranking will have to be postponed, as she needed to reach the final in order to overtake Naomi Osaka and ascend to the top.
The match began in very stop-start fashion, with two rain delays interrupting the first three games alone. A short, 10-minute drizzle halted play with both players on serve at 1-1, but just as quickly as they came back on court they had to hurry off for another, much longer delay at 2-1.
When they finally returned to the court almost two hours later at 10:30 p.m., it was Kvitova who came out swinging. She quickly broke the Aussie at 3-2, but Barty came straight back, staying in the contest with her heavy pace and backhand slices matching up against Kvitova’s firepower and lefty shots.
The pair were neck and neck through the rest of the set, evenly matched as they settled into the high-quality contest. They stayed on serve, Kvitova dodging a Barty set point at 6-5 to take them into a tiebreaker.
— WTA (@WTA) March 27, 2019
Kvitova powered ahead to a comfortable 5-2 lead, but it quickly unraveled as Barty rallied back, reeling off three points in a row to get them even at 5-5. Both players had chances to take the set, but Barty was the one to surge ahead to clinch it, edging the tiebreak 8-6.
But the Czech found another level in the second set, responding like a two-time Grand Slam champion to notch an early break and get ahead 3-0. She cut down on her unforced error count - from 24 in the first set alone to just nine in the second - and her forehand was firing as she dictated the rallies. Barty was able to get the break back at 3-2, but Kvitova quickly reestablished the lead a game later and marched ahead to take the set 6-3.
The third set was all Barty as Kvitova seemed to flag, a bit of fatigue creeping in as the clock ticked closer to 1 a.m.. Barty took an early break to establish a 3-0 lead, staying aggressive even as Kvitova broke back at 3-2. The Aussie raised her level at a crucial time, and reeled off three games in a row to put an end to their two-hour-and-34-minute battle.
— WTA (@WTA) March 27, 2019
In addition to closing the gap on their head-to-head record, Barty has another reason to celebrate this victory. By virtue of having reached the quarterfinals here, Barty is already guaranteed to rise into the WTA’s Top 10 for the first time when the rankings are released on Monday.
“[It feels] bloody good,” Barty beamed. “No, I think it's been a goal of mine for a long time now. That's no secret. It's amazing what happens when you put your hopes and dreams out into the universe and do the work, you know? It's amazing.
“I had an opportunity last week that I wasn't able to grab, and this week was about coming here and continuing to try and trust the process and enjoy the journey that I'm on. It's a pretty beautiful thing being able to play tennis for a living.”
Up next, Barty will take on Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, the No.21 seed, in her next match as she contests her career-first Premier Mandatory semifinal. Kontaveit edged past No.27 Hsieh Su-Wei in three sets, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 to advance. It’ll be Barty and Kontaveit’s first main draw meeting.