World No. 1, Ashleigh Barty set up a quarter final meeting with Petra Kvitova following a 6-3 1-6 6-4 victory over American, Alison Riske on Sunday night.
The top seed booked her spot in the Melbourne quarter finals for the second straight season after registering her first victory in three attempts over the battling Riske.
Both of Barty’s previous losses to Riske were on grass, including a fourth round defeat at Wimbledon last season, but the Australian was able to turn the tables on the hard courts of Melbourne, eking out a hard-fought win in an hour and 36 minutes.
— Ash Barty (@ashbarty) January 26, 2020
“Alison is not just a tough opponent for me, she’s a tough opponent for every single girl on the tour,” Barty stated. “She has the ability to adapt her game, to make the opponent uncomfortable. I think she’s got a great tennis brain of problem solving, as well.”
“It’s been amazing. I’m just really excited to get another opportunity in a quarterfinal of a Grand Slam, you don’t get those every week, so I’m really excited”.
The Australian stretches her winning streak to eight matches, having won the Adelaide title in the build up to the Australian Open.
Barty settled into her task very quickly, employing her vaunted slice backhand to create problems for Riske, and she got the early break in the second game of the match following a series of errors from her American opponent.
The home favourite had two more break points in Riske’s next service game, but she dumped a very makeable forehand into the net on the first opportunity, while the second was wiped out by an ace as Riske fought back to get on the board. Riske’s diligence was rewarded in the next game, when she broke back to get the set back on serve.
However, Barty was quick to reestablish her advantage, slicing her way to another break point, before nailing a forehand winner down the line to take a 4-2 lead. The world No. 1 would maintain that advantage for the rest of the set, closing it out comfortably after 35 minutes.
Riske had fought back from a set down to beat Barty at Wimbledon last July, and the American threatened to repeat the script in Melbourne, fighting back to dominate the second set. Upping the aggression and handling Barty’s slice backhand with more competence, the American raced through the set 6-1 to force a decider. She was also helped by some waywardness from Barty, who offered 12 unforced errors in the second set.
“Tonight, it was important to get off to a good start. I was a little bit loose, pressed too much. Very proud of the way we were able to bring it back in the third, go back to the patterns I wanted to play.”
Barty wrestled back control of a see-saw encounter early in the third set, utilizing her excellent forecourt skills to convert break point for 3-1, and consolidating with a hold to love, but Riske refused to lay low as the American battled back to even the final set at 4-4.
Barty edged ahead in the next game, unfurling a pair of inside-in forehand winners to hold for 5-4, thus piling scoreboard pressure on Riske, who had to hold to stay in the match. The American faltered, sending down just her second double fault of the contest on match point to concede her first ever defeat to Barty.
“I just had to hang in there. It was very tough from both ends playing very differently. I just had to give myself a chance”, Barty said of the win.
The Australian proceeds to the quarter finals for the second straight season, and will be on another revenge mission when she takes on Petra Kvitova, who defeated the home favourite at the same stage last season.