ADELAIDE, Australia - The last Adelaide International quarterfinal saw No.1 seed Ashleigh Barty deliver a tactically astute performance to out-manoeuvre No.8 seed Marketa Vondrousova 6-3, 6-3 in a rematch of last year's Roland Garros final.
Barty now holds a 4-0 head-to-head lead over Vondrousova, and is yet to drop a set to the Czech. Today, she would strike 20 winners and save six of seven break points over an hour and 21 minutes characterized first by a strategic masterclass and then by a champion's instinct to rise to the occasion on the biggest points.
Vondrousova, playing her first tournament since Wimbledon after a six-month hiatus involving wrist surgery, has impressed in her comeback this week, defeating lucky loser Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-0 and qualifier Arina Rodionova 6-0, 6-0 to reach the last eight. But she found that facing the World No.1 is a very different proposition. Barty opened by unceremoniously halting the 20-year-old's 19-game streak, and from then on the acuity and complexity of her point construction meant that the WTA Finals champion always seemed a shot or two ahead of her opponent.
Time and again, Barty used short angles, pinpoint lobs and a biting slice to carve out space in the open court. Though today her forehand was on song to finish most of these points with a flourish, the 23-year-old's best rallies were characterized less by a singular weapon and more by her strategic combination of the many, varied shots in her repertoire.
Barty would also find joy by luring Vondrousova into net, with a successful pass on one such occasion sealing the first break for 3-1. Though the World No.16 would do well to weather Barty's purple patch, keeping the opening set to a single break and even forcing a break-back point as Barty served it out, Vondrousova's transition game to the forecourt was perhaps too slow and her injections of pace too conservatively deployed to make an impact. Barty, conjuring up magic such as a clean backhand slice winner down the line, saved break point in the last game of the set with a wickedly sliced pass before taking her first set point with another marvellous all-court point that ended when Vondrousova mistimed a dropshot into the net.
A slight drop-off saw Barty's form oscillate somewhat throughout the second set - while, conversely, Vondrousova began to assert more of her own variety on proceedings, from a wickedly spun backhand volley to deep, heavily topspun returns that caught Barty out at the baseline.
Twice Barty went up a break, and twice Vondrousova had opportunities to break back. She was successful the first time - but, 4-3 up and staring down a 0-40 barrel, Barty came up with supreme clutch tennis (and some more magical touch on the slice) to stave off four break points to inch into a 5-3 lead.
Serving to stay in the match, it was Vondrousova's accuracy that let her down: a do-or-die forehand down the line at 30-30 missed by millimetres, and down match point the youngster tapped an attempted counterdrop into the net.
Nonetheless, Vondrousova can walk away happy to have essayed a successful return to the court - while Barty can look forward to taking on the big-hitting challenge of the in-form Danielle Collins, who posted yet another eye-catching scoreline in upsetting No.4 seed Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-1 in one hour and five minutes.