Stuttgart. Happy Birthday, Ash! On her 25th birthday, Ashleigh Barty gave herself a wonderful present by winning her Porsche Tennis Grand Prix semifinal 4-6, 7-6, 6-2. A mamba green metallic Porsche Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo could well be added to the Australian world No. 1’s gift table after the final on Sunday. For it to happen, she first has to crown her debut at the long-standing Stuttgart tournament with a win against Aryna Sabalenka. The world No. 7 from Belarus has also reached the final on her first ever appearance in the Porsche Arena with an unexpectedly easy 6-3, 6-2 success against Simona Halep from Romania.
In the first semifinal against Elina Svitolina, Ashleigh Barty once again not only showed her outstanding skills with a tennis racket in her hand but also her sheer unbelievable mental strength. Like in the quarterfinal against Karolina Pliskova, she once again lost the first set (6-4). The serving at 5-4 up in the second, the world No. 5 from Ukraine was only one game away from winning the match. But the world No. 1 kept battling and forced her way back into the match by first breaking her opponent and then taking her to a tie-break which she won 7-6 (5). In the deciding frame, Barty then broke twice early on before converting her second match point (6-2) after two hours and five minutes.
‟It’s important to always believe you have a chance,” said the Australian who was presented with an enormous bouquet of spring flowers for her birthday after the match by the Tournament Director Markus Günthardt and the Operating Tournament Director Anke Huber. The fitting ‟Happy Birthday” song was played over the loud speakers but the prospect of it being sung on her return next year by a capacity 4,500 crowd in the Porsche Arena brought a smile to her face under the obligatory mask. Asked at the post-match interview on court whether it bothered her playing on her birthday, she replied by saying, ‟No, why? I love playing tennis.”
During the live coverage of the second semifinal, the tennis experts were most probably rubbing their eyes in disbelief. They surely cannot have expected the way in which Aryna Sabalenka dominated Simona Halep, the No. 2 seeded clay court specialist, and catapult her out of the race for the Porsche Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo. The world No. 7 only needed 66 minutes for the 6-3, 6-2 straight sets win. The Belarusian went on the attack right from the start and was rewarded for her courage. Halep was unable to find her game and Sabalenka could do almost nothing wrong, and this after her almost two-and-a-half-hour quarterfinal the day before which only finished just before midnight.
‟I didn’t sleep much last night, but in no way did I want to catch up on it on court,” she said immediately after the match. For the only 22-year old, it is only her second final on clay. The conditions in Stuttgart are right up her street: ‟The court is great for my game.” It is why she does not fear her opponent in the final, Ashleigh Barty. She certainly does not believe the Australian will still be tired after having to work much harder for the semifinal victory. ‟She has enough power and will be fit.”
Ashleigh Barty will again have to work doubly hard on finals day in the Porsche Arena. Together with her partner Jennifer Brady (USA) she will also be appearing in the doubles final where the opponents will be the No. 1 seeded Americans Desirae Krawczyk and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. The Australian has the historical chance of doing the double for the first time in the Porsche Arena by winning both the singles and double titles. The last player to achieve the feat was the American Lindsay Davenport at the 2001 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, but in Filderstadt.
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