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Resurgent Kuznetsova ends Barty's no. 1 hopes in Cincinnati semifinals

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 17 Aug 2019
  • Svetlana Kuznetsova stunned Ashleigh Barty 6-2, 6-4 in the Cincinnati semifinals
  • Barty would have been ranked world no. 1 on Monday had she reached Western & Southern Open final
  • Resurgent performance from two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova
Svetlana Kuznetsova upset Ashleigh Barty to reach the final of the Western & Southern Open (PA Sports)

Resurgent Svetlana Kuznetsova stuns Ashleigh Barty in straight sets in Western & Southern Open semifinals.

Once ranked as high as world no. 2 but currently outside the top 150, Svetlana Kuznetsova reminded the tennis world that she remains one of its finest players as she delivered a dazzling performance to beat French Open champion Ashleigh Barty in straight sets in Cincinnati on Saturday.

The 6-2, 6-4 win for Kuznetsova saw her into her first WTA Tour final for over a year at the Western & Southern Open.

The two-time Grand Slam champion delivered a brilliant performance (PA Sports)
It also ended Barty's hopes of retaking the world no. 1 ranking - and with it, the top seeding at the US Open - from Naomi Osaka on Monday. Osaka took over the top spot this week after Barty suffered an early defeat to Sofia Kenin in Toronto but the Japanese player's retirement against Kenin in the Cincinnati quarterfinals meant that Barty could overtake Osaka again by reaching the Cincinnati final.

As it transpired, Barty was unable to stop Kuznetsova from running roughshed over her in their first meeting and will not be the top seed at the US Open unless Osaka, the defending champion, withdraws (which is not impossible given Osaka's retirement with a troubling knee injury on Friday).

The Russian has had serious injury trouble in recent years, undergoing wrist surgery in late 2017 and only playing 24 matches in 2018 before a knee injury kept her out from September of last year until April when she returned to competition in Lugano. As a result, her ranking dipped as low as world no. 198 before she won back-to-back matches for just the second time this year in Toronto last week, pushing her up to world no. 153 coming into Cincinnati.

Kuznetsova's Toronto run was ended in abrupt fashion by Simona Halep but she has now beaten three top-10 players this week, adding Barty's scalp to victories over Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.

Barty broke in Kuznetsova's opening service game to lead 2-0, but it was the last time the world no. 2 would be ahead in the scoreline. Kuznetsova quickly settled to the task before her, breaking Barty back with a beautifully-constructed point in the first of eight games she would reel off in extraordinarily dominant style.

'She's not a one-trick pony. She's able to problem-solve better than most,' Barty said afterwards.

'She got off to a poor start, but was able to flip the switch right away and get back into patterns she can control. It was hard for me to get out of them, and I couldn't really hurt her much.'

Barty struggled with her serve throughout the match (PA Sports)
The Australian had her moments - she hit a scorching forehand pass winner applauded by Kuznetsova at 2-2 - but she was generally undone by poor serving, with her first-serve percentage at 45% for the first set, and a few too many unforced errors, especially in the first set. After Kuznetsova broke for 3-2, Barty had a look at getting to 30-30 on the Russian's serve but drifted long with a backhand slice and Kuznetsova consolidated for 4-2. A rattled Barty made two unforced errors to go down 0-30 at 2-4, and Kuznetsova, scenting blood, hit a tremendous forehand return winner down the line and into the corner to break and lead 5-2, duly serving out the set.

After having won six games in a row from 0-2 down, Kuznetsova extended her streak by breaking Barty as the Australian again struggled to find first serves and consolidating to lead 2-0. The Russian's complete, all-court game - she is both a powerful hitter and a superb defender, and has plenty of variety and great touch too - means that when she is playing and moving well, she is very difficult to break down, and Barty could not find a way. The Australian started to serve better and cut out the unforced errors, ready to pounce should Kuznetsova falter, and she pushed to 30-30 on Kuznetsova's serve at 4-3 only to be denied a break point by two absolutely sublime backhand volleys in an all-court point and the Russian held for 5-3.

Barty, in a last ditch effort, held serve from 15-30 to force Kuznetsova to serve for the match but the sometimes nervy Russian had no difficulty in doing just that, closing out her 6-2, 6-4 win in just 67 minutes.

It's a remarkable run for Kuznetsova, whose first WTA Tour final came an incredible 17 years ago and who won both her Grand Slam titles over a decade ago. Moreover, she almost didn't play the US Open Series at all because of problems getting a visa.

Kuznetsova could face Madison Keys, the 2017 US Open finalist, in the Western & Southern Open final on Sunday. Keys faces rising young American Kenin in the second semifinal on Saturday evening.

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Resurgent Kuznetsova ends Barty's no. 1 hopes in Cincinnati semifinals

Despite being ranked outside the world's top 150 after struggling with injury, Svetlana Kuznetsova stunned top seed Ashleigh Barty 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open, ending the French Open champion's hopes of being seeded no. 1 at the US Open

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