World No.1 Ashleigh Barty put on a master class on home soil at the Adelaide International 1 on Friday, as the Aussie slammed a career-best 17 aces and knocked out 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin of the United States 6-3, 6-4. The win sets up a semifinal showdown between the last two champions in Adelaide, as 2020 champion Barty takes on 2021 champion Iga Swiatek.
Fast facts: Barty came into the match leading her head-to-head with Kenin by 4-2. However, Kenin had notched a hugely important victory over the No.1 in their most recent meeting, when she upset homeland hope Barty in the 2020 Australian Open semifinals en route to her first Grand Slam title.
But Barty, who won the inaugural Adelaide title in 2020, was nearly impenetrable on serve this time around, never facing a break point as she moved to victory over a gritty Kenin in just 68 minutes.
Service with a smile: Barty, enjoying her 74th consecutive week at the top of the WTA singles rankings (and her 109th week at No.1 overall), was nearly flawless behind her stellar first serve, with her 17 aces being the cherry on top.
In the first set, Barty went 15-for-15 on first-service points as she took the opener. She started the second set with a bang as well, clinching a break in the first game with a superb down-the-line winner.
Kenin determinedly held on to the rest of her service games, but the damage had been done as Barty did not miss a first-service point until the only one she would lose, at 3-2 in the second set. The Australian finished with a 97 percent success rate on first-serve (31-for-32).
"Today I was able to see the box quite clearly and hit my spots well and get on a little bit of a run," Barty said. "I think towards the end Sofia was kind of leaning one way or the other and I was able to kind of get up and hit my spots."
First into the semifinals in Adelaide 🇦🇺— wta (@WTA) January 7, 2022
Elena Rybakina claims her spot in the final 4️⃣ with a three-set victory over Rogers! pic.twitter.com/EgXyieXcfo
Barty on the challenge of facing Swiatek: "We practice quite a bit together," Barty said. "I enjoy her company. I enjoy her team's company. Playing her for the first time last year in Madrid was exciting for both of us.
"The way she's aggressive on the ball, aggressive on the baseline, she moves exceptionally well, has a weight of shot that not many have. I think the challenge is trying to not let her control the point too much out of the center of the court and keep her moving and try to bring it back to my weapons, if I can."
Rybakina, Doi set semifinal showdown
In the bottom half of the draw, No.7 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan will face Misaki Doi of Japan for a spot in the Adelaide final, after they each won three-set quarterfinal battles.
Currently ranked at a career-high No.14, Rybakina pulled off a comeback victory over Shelby Rogers of the United States, taking exactly two hours to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Rybakina hit nine aces and broke the Rogers serve three times, while only ceding serve once.
"I'm happy more that maybe I'm not playing my best now, but I'm still able to win the matches," Rybakina said in her post-match press conference. "I played two matches [that went] three sets, not easy ones. I'm just happy I'm moving more in the draw and I'm playing more matches. In the end I think it's going to help me to feel more confidence."
Doi's victory was even more dramatic. The 30-year-old, who peaked at No.30 in the rankings in 2016, saved two match points before beating Slovenia's Kaja Juvan 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(5) in 2 hours and 48 minutes.
Juvan held her two match points on Doi's serve at 5-6 in the third set, but the Japanese player got out of that jam to queue up the decisive tiebreak.
In the breaker, Doi won four points in a row to garner triple match point at 6-3, and though Juvan erased the first two on Doi's serve, left-handed Doi cranked a forehand winner on her third chance to seal victory and reach her first WTA 500 semifinal.
"If I [had] lost today, still, I gave everything, 100 percent on the court," Doi said, after her win. "I think this mentality was good, I just stayed focused on what I needed to do."