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Barty vs Kuznetsova tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Barty in for a battle in Cincinnati semifinals

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 16 Aug 2019
  • Ashleigh Barty faces Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open
  • Barty vs Kuznetsova is live from Cincinnati on Saturday at 11am local/4pm BST
Ashleigh Barty (PA Sports)

Top seed Ashleigh Barty faces two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova for the first time in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. 

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Still in the hunt for the world no. 1 ranking and the top seeding at the US Open, Ashleigh Barty takes on resurgent veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova for a place in the final of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday.

Whoever is ranked WTA world no. 1 on Monday will be the top seed at the US Open and, with Karolina Pliskova’s quarterfinal defeat to Kuznetsova, there are only two possibilities: Barty and Naomi Osaka, who at the time of writing was just starting her quarterfinal against Sofia Kenin. Should Osaka beat Kenin, Barty will need to win the Cincinnati title to be ranked world no. 1 on Monday; if not, then reaching the final will be enough for the Australian.

Barty had to dig deep in the quarterfinals (PA Sports)
It’s not about the ranking for Barty so much as trying to rediscover her form after a couple of tough early exits, one in the third round of Wimbledon to Alison Riske and another last week at the Rogers Cup in Toronto to Kenin. Barty wasn’t happy with the amount of unforced errors she made and the general lack of polish in her performance during her defeat to Kenin, and the way she opened her Cincinnati campaign against Maria Sharapova, defeating the Russian 6-4, 6-1, suggested that she’d sloughed the rust off.

Subsequent matches have suggested it’s going to be a more complex matter for Barty to find the kind of form she enjoyed during her run to the French Open title. Up against the powerful Anett Kontaveit in the third round, Barty had to battle back from the brink of defeat and it was really only grim determination that kept her from losing a match that was on a knife’s edge the whole way through.

It was also a battle against Maria Sakkari in Friday’s quarterfinals, but by the end of it, Barty was playing her best tennis of the week, having finally found that elusive groove where everything looks almost impossibly easy for the multi-skilled Australian. Barty got off to a bright start against the unseeded Sakkari, who had knocked Petra Kvitova and Aryna Sabalenka out already and was looking for a hat-trick of wins against top-10 opponents this week; the Australian raced to a 3-0 lead and looked beautifully in control as she led 4-1.

Sakkari started to gain confidence and play more patiently towards the end of the set, however, and when Barty threw in a slightly poor game serving for the set at 5-3, the Greek player pounced, cracking a winning backhand return to break back for 4-5. From there, Sakkari reeled off the next five games to take the first set, finding a rich vein of form and striking out fearlessly whenever she had an opportunity, like the backhand winner down the line she found at 30-30 when serving for the set.

The second set saw Barty regroup and clamp down tightly on her own game, playing cagey, controlled tennis and offering Sakkari nothing. It cooled the Greek player’s momentum, and Barty surged back to take the second set 6-2. Playing more freely now, Barty struck a forehand winner down the line to lead 2-0 in the decider and at that point, had won eight of the last ten games.

Finally it all came together for Barty, who completely dominated the third set, taking a double-break lead for 4-0 with two passing shot winners – one cross, one down the line – and a drop-shot and lob combination. There was little an increasingly demoralized Sakkari could do as Barty closed out the win 5-7, 6-2, 6-0.

‘I started the match well and I went away from what was working. Maria took some risks that paid off,’ Barty said afterwards.

‘It was important for me at the start of the second set to go back to basics and what worked before. I had to serve well, and not give her too many looks at second serves. I tried to bring in my slice to change the tempo of the match.’

Svetlana Kuznetsova also booked her place in the semifinals via a comeback win – but then ‘comeback’ is the keynote with Sveta at the moment.

The two-time Grand Slam champion, who only played 24 matches in 2018 due to undergoing wrist surgery in 2017, did not play between September of last year and April of 2019 due to a knee injury and by the time she returned to competition in Lugano in April her ranking had dropped outside the top 100. 

Svetlana Kuznetsova (PA Sports)
It was a tough road: Kuznetsova lost four straight matches from Madrid to Wimbledon and it was only really last week at the Rogers Cup that she started to look a bit more like herself, most notably in a win over Donna Vekic in Toronto, although she was completely outplayed by Simona Halep in the quarterfinals, getting just three games.

In Cincinnati, it’s been up and down for Kuznetsova but all her wins have been quality ones. She ousted 11th seed and US Open semifinalist Anastasija Sevastova in the first round before taking out rising Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska, who faded physically down the stretch, also in three sets. She got her second top-10 win of the season against Sloane Stephens in the third round, allowing the American three games, to set up the quarterfinal clash with third seed Karolina Pliskova.

Pliskova broke immediately to open the match and dominated the first set and a half, looking extremely sharp as she kept forcing Kuznetsova into defensive positions which even the athletic Russian could not find winners from. The Czech looked implacable until 6-3, 5-4 and serving for the match, when she took her foot off the gas just slightly. Kuznetsova broke back for 5-5 and although Pliskova saved break points at 5-6 to take the first set to a tie-break, it was Kuznetsova who dominated that tie-break, really stepping up the aggression and taking it 7-6(2).

Kuznetsova had treatment during the heat break after saying she was having difficulty breathing, but had little difficulty in breaking Pliskova to take the early lead in the decider. Pliskova saved a double-break point with a gorgeous forehand winner into the corner at 1-3 and went on to hold, earning a chance to get back on serve herself in the following game, only to bury a backhand down the line in the net after painstakingly working the desperately defending Kuznetsova off the court. It was the Czech’s last chance and Kuznetsova broke again to win the match 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-3.

This will be the first meeting between Barty and Kuznetsova, and I for one am very curious to see how it turns out. Kuznetsova is so multi-skilled herself that I’m not sure Barty’s backhand slice will really hurt her in the way that it hurts other players – Barty certainly can’t rely on it to break up Kuznetsova’s rhythm – and she’s such a great defender that Barty will have to really be prepared to hit a lot of balls. She has to serve very well and be very accurate with her finishing shots, and be ready to fight and fight against a tremendously frustrating opponent. I’m not at all sure who’s going to win, but I’m fairly certain it’s going to go three sets. 

Barty vs Kuznetsova tennis is live from Cincinnati on Saturday at 11am local/4pm BST

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Barty vs Kuznetsova tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Barty in for a battle in Cincinnati semifinals

Ashleigh Barty vs Svetlana Kuznetsova live streaming, preview and predictions for the Western & Southern Open semifinal match on Saturday 17 August: Resurgent Kuznetsova and top seed Barty have fought back from the brink of defeat to set up a first clash in Cincinnati

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