The unstoppable form that saw Ashleigh Barty win her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros less than two weeks ago is showing no sign of stopping on the grass courts of the Nature Valley Classic.
Friday saw Barty come through a high quality encounter with Venus Williams 6-4 6-3 to notch up her tenth win in a row since the start of Roland Garros. Even a five-time Wimbledon champion such as Williams could not find a way to stop Barty moving in to the semi-finals and a step closer to both the Maud Watson Trophy and the World No.1 ranking.
Barty, who plays another former Nature Valley Classic finalist in Barbora Strycova in the first of Saturday’s semi-finals, will take top spot in the WTA world rankings from Naomi Osaka if she wins the title on Sunday.
“I feel like every match is getting better and better on the grass and it’s always a privilege to play someone like Venus; she’s done incredible things for our sport and she’s inspired generations to pick up a tennis racket,” said Barty. “It was important to keep my foot on the peddle because Venus can take games away from you pretty quickly.”
Strycova is a huge fan favourite at the Edgbaston Priory Club and has always enjoyed playing in Birmingham. From the outset the Czech looked too strong for countrywoman Kristyna Pliskova in Friday’s quarter-finals, delivering a crisp 6-2 6-4 victory.
“There must be something really special here,” said Strycova. “I just love to come here. I love the tournament. It’s kind of really relaxed tournament for me, and I really enjoy England. I love to play here. I’m enjoying myself on court.”
Barty and Strycova are among the female players discussing playing mixed doubles with Andy Murray at Wimbledon, which starts on 1 July. Barty confirmed that she had turned Murray down in order to focus on singles and doubles at SW19 but that it had been a very difficult decision.
“I was flattered and very honoured to be asked but three events is just too much for me. I’m sure he’ll find someone,” she said. “There will be a million people lining up for Andy. It was nice to see him play him yesterday. I think the whole world was watching and I don’t think there was a single person in the tennis world or on the planet that wasn’t happy to see him back out there again.”
Strycova, meanwhile, said she would jump at the chance of partnering Murray.
“Actually, I would love to play with him. We played some juniors together, so it would be really fun. I would go. I’m ready. He didn’t reply yet. So I don’t know. If he asks, I’m for it. That’s an official announcement!”
Eight seed Julia Goerges takes on Croatia’s Petra Martic in Saturday’s second singles semi-final. Goerges fell in love with grass court tennis during last year’s run to the Wimbledon semi-finals and looked composed and confident in overcoming Yulia Putintseva 6-3 6-2 in the quarter-finals.
Martic’s 6-7(4) 7-5 6-1 win over Jelena Ostapenko was by far the most dramatic match on the Ann Jones Centre Court on Friday. Ostapenko looked in complete command and held match-points before her composure slipped and her game unravelled. As the match moved into a third set that had seemed unlikely, Martic grew in confidence while Ostapenko seemed increasingly dejected.
“I still can’t believe that I won this match,” said Martic. “I was saving match points from one to another, so it’s really incredible that I managed to pull this match through.”
The order of play for Saturday 22nd June may be found HERE.
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