Ash Barty fulfilled an Australian Open dream, producing her best showing at Melbourne Park with a 7-6(6), 6-2 Tuesday defeat of Petra Kvitova to set up a semi-final with American Sofia Kenin.
The world No. 1 who holds the French Open title, spent one and three-quarter hours in holding off last years’s losing finalist.
Kenin booked her personal-best career spot, running off a straightforward 6-4, 6-4 win over Tunisian Ons Jabeur, 6-4 6-4.
Barty has beaten Kenin of four of their five matches, with the Moscow-born American winning last year in the Toronto second round.
“Barty called her defeat of double Wimbledon winner Kvitova “absolutely incredible.”
“I had to play my absolute best. The first set was crucial, I had to bring my absolute best and I needed a quick start in the second.
Barty, who ended proceedings on court with a second ace, called Czech Kvitova “the perfect competitor.”
“She fights her best, even when she loses she has a big grin on her face walking to the net.
Kvitova had numerous chance on the Barty serve, with the Australian top seed deflecting all but two of 12, finishing with 20 winners and 28 unforced errors.
Barty held off five break points for 4-3 in a first-set game lasting through seven deuces and taking 10 minutes to complete.
The Aussie fought off a pair of break points for 6-5 as the set went into a tiebreaker.
Kvitova lost a set point chance with a forehand long; Barty converted her own chance on her opponent’s error.
In the second, Barty raced to 4-0 before Kvitova could react for 1-4. The Australian dropped serve but got it straight back to lead a set and 5-2 before closing out a game later.
Barty will be wary of Kenin in their semi-final.
“She’s been having an incredible run,” the top seed said of the No. 15. “She’s been developing her game over the last 12-18 months.
“I’ll need to get my running shoes on and bring some variety.”
The 21-year-old Kenin had to hold off an aggressive opponent, with the 78th-ranked Jabeur saving five set points in the opening set before falling behind.
Jabeur had a racquet toss moment as she lost serve in the seventh game of the second set. Kenin advanced on her first match point when Jabeur hit the net.
“It feels really good, I’m super excited for the quarters,” Kenin, who knocked Serena Williams out of Roland Garros last year, said.
“Overall I played really good, I tried to handle the nerves coming into this match. I think I did a really good job handling myself.
“I’ve played Ash a few times, I know her game pretty well. It’s going to be a good match – I’m excited.
“She’s playing at her home, so it’s a little bit different. But I’ve made a lot of new fans. Hopefully I’ll get some support and have a good match.”
Jabeur was left optimistic by her unexpectedly strong showing at the first Slam of the season.
“I had to run to every ball, she didn’t give any free points,” she said.
“(She didn’t have) a lot of mistakes, which was tough. That’s what quarter-finals are like in a Grand Slams. I really wish that I could have played better.
“I’m happy with the tournament. The good news is that I have so much work to do still. Hopefully I can come back stronger and be able to do better next