… Super Aussie Barty shows how it’s done
Simona Halep saw her chance to regain the World No.1 spot slip away amid the showers of Florida as Aussie Ashleigh Barty, who walked away from tennis five years go, was forced to wait for her spot in the Miami Open final.
Mistakes were Halep’s undoing. She lost to fifth-seeded Pliskova 7-5, 6-1 as rain interrupted play several times and forced the game past a 1am finish.
Halep led led 5-3 in the opening set, and then just unraveled in a very uncharacteristic way. Pliskova went on to win nine consecutive games before the heavens opened and after waiting an hour for the rain to stop and the court to be dried, she needed only four more minutes of to finish out the match.
The 12th-seeded Barty endured three rain delays before ousting Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-3 in the first women’s semi-final.
“We can’t control the weather,” Barty said.
Next up is the biggest final of her singles career, against Pliskova.
Barty walked away from tennis about five years ago, claiming she was burnt out at 17. She came back three years ago and now at 22, she’s looking a world beater.
The Aussies are pinning their hopes on her revitalising the womens game Down Under. No Australian has been this high in the rankings since Sam Stosur.
“Obviously, I’ve been doing the right things throughout the week to put be able to put myself in a position to play for a title,” Barty said.
“You have to go out there and embrace it.”
Barty, who will rise to a career-best No. 9 in the world rankings next week, was to take the court for her semifinal against Kontaveit at 1pm. Rain pushed their start time back to 2:08, and they got three games in before the first delay halted proceedings for more than two hours.
Another game, then more rain and another two-hour delay.
At 7:32 pm Barty could celebrate as Kontaveit beat off one match point, but was ousted by an ace on the following point.
Barty then won the final five games.
“Very long day,” Barty said afterwards. She spent the time in the locker room drinking coffee and watching golf.
Roger Federer, who at 37, is the combined age of the two Canadian teens in the men’s semifinals.
Dennis Shapovalov, 19, will face Federer in one and the 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime will meet defending Miami champion John Isner in the other.
Federer won the first eight games of his match and eventually ousted sixth-seeded Kevin Anderson 6-0, 6-4.
“I got a bit lucky there at the end,” Federer said. “But it was a great fight by Kevin and of course I enjoyed the match.”
“It’s great for the game because they will carry the sport when we’re long gone and we’ll be sitting on the couch watching those guys slug it out,” Federer said about the young Canadians.
“It’ll be a joy to watch because not only are they great, great players but they’re good people, too.”
Shapovalov reached the semifinals by beating Frances Tiafoe 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2. Auger-Aliassime said back home in Canada everyone was “super excited”.
4-Roger Federer (SUI) bt 6-Kevin Anderson (RSA) 6-0 6-4.
20-Denis Shapovalov (CAN) bt 28-Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-7(5) 6-4 6-2.
5-Karolina Pliskova (CZE) bt 2-Simona Halep (ROU) 7-5 6-1.
12-Ashleigh Barty (AUS) bt 21-Anett Kontaveit (EST) 6-3 6-3.