BEIJING, China -- In a closely contested clash between Top 10 stars, World No.1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia battled her way past No.7 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, to book a spot in the China Open semifinals for the first time.
"From my opinion, that was one of the highest quality matches I played all year," Barty said, during her post-match press conference. "Petra always has a way of bringing out the best in me, she really does."
Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova came into the quarterfinal tilt with a 4-1 head-to-head lead on her opponent, including two wins during this year’s Australian swing, but reigning Roland Garros champion Barty had triumphed in their most recent meeting, en route to the Miami Open title in March.
The world’s top-ranked player made it two in a row against Kvitova, earning the victory on Friday after two hours and eight minutes of gripping action, and continuing her solid run of form in China after reaching the semifinals at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open last week.
Re-live the WTA Insider Live Blog: No.1 Barty overcomes familiar foe Kvitova to reach China Open semis
Barty finished the encounter with 31 winners to just 20 unforced errors, while Kvitova fired 36 winners to 28 unforced errors. With a clean match by both players, the result was determined by success on break points, and ultimately, Barty won half of her six break points, while Kvitova could only convert two of her seven.
"From both of us, I think the level was incredible," said Barty. "Regardless of winning or losing, I think I'd be sitting here with the exact same perspective, kind of the same feeling of the match afterwards."
— WTA (@WTA) October 4, 2019
Both players were supremely effective on first serve throughout the opening set, but it was Kvitova who claimed the early advantage in the encounter as she fired a backhand return winner on the first break point of the set, moving up a break at 3-2. The Czech did not ease up after garnering the lead, gritting out a service hold to consolidate for 4-2.
Barty’s divine deliveries returned in spades as she closed out her next two holds with service winners, but the Australian was unable to burrow her way into any of the Kvitova service games in the rest of the set. Indeed, the break point Kvitova converted at 2-2 would prove to be the only one held by either player in the opening frame, as Kvitova powered through the final game of the set to clinch the 6-4 lead.
"I think I didn't do a hell of a lot wrong in the first set," Barty stated. "Even the game I got broken, I didn't even really give a couple of cheapies. It was Petra doing Petra things."
Barty, however, stayed steely and fended off a trio of break points spread among the first half of the second set, as the players moved to 3-3. The Barty groundstrokes continued to pull her out of danger as the set progressed, as the Australian saved two more break points to hold for 4-3. Kvitova seemed unperturbed at this juncture, using her fiery forehand to hold for 4-4 and put herself within touching distance of the victory.
However, after Barty held for 5-4, the Czech found herself facing break points for the first time in the clash, after a huge Barty backhand return set up a winning volley. Kvitova saved one with an error-forcing forehand, but on the second, Barty sent Kvitova scrambling with a beautifully placed defensive lob, drawing an error from the Czech and leveling the match at one set apiece.
— WTA (@WTA) October 4, 2019
Kvitova grabbed the early lead in the decider after she ended back-to-back points with fierce forehands to claim a service break in the opening game. But Barty struck back immediately, using outstanding court coverage to draw an error from the Czech and queue up a break point in the next game, which she converted by ending a rally with a forehand winner.
At 4-3, it would be Barty who would see the next chance to take a commanding lead, as Kvitova went down break point after a backhand miscue. Kvitova fended that break point off after ending an amazing rally with a stirring crosscourt winner, and used strong serves to hold three game points in the game. But Barty pulled to deuce with a forehand winner, and Kvitova faltered after that, hitting two straight forehand errors to drop serve.
Serving for the match at 5-3, Barty saw a 40-0 lead and her first three match points slip away, but the World No.1 teed up a fourth opportunity, which she converted after blasting a forehand winner crosscourt, sliding into the last four in Beijing.
In the final four, Barty will face the winner of the second quarterfinal of the day, which is also a clash between Top 10 players: No.3 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and No.8 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands.
"They're both extremely good tennis players who have kind of had a really good back end of the year," Barty said, looking forward to her semifinal. "I think both present different challenges. Whichever it is, I look forward to either one trying to test myself, again, against one of the best players in the world coming into a couple of big weeks to finish off the year."