Sunday, June 20

The brilliant Ash Barty in a tennis bubble of her own after reaching the final in Madrid | Ashleigh barty


Ash Barty is living in a bubble right now, and he seems to be playing in a world of his own too. The extraordinary Australian champion has reached another grand finale, successfully overcoming the difficulties of another confined and biosecure sporting event to be on the brink of a fourth Madrid Open win of the year.

After defeating Spain’s Paula Badosa 6-4, 6-3 in Thursday’s semifinal to spoil the fun of the crowd returning to the Caja Mágica, Barty was asked if he had had a chance to sightsee at one of the best cities in Europe.

“No, we are in a bubble here. Like all other players, we respect the rules and we follow the rules, ”explained Barty. “Madrid is a beautiful city, but I know that Madrid is not going anywhere. We can go back and visit all the spectacular corners of the city. But for now, we do the right thing. “

And doing the right thing for Barty these days means only one thing: winning. Her victory, over dangerous 23-year-old wildcard Badosa, who was the last player to defeat her just a month ago on Charleston’s unusual green ‘clay’, brought Barty’s winning streak on red clay to 16 matches in two years. .

She made it seem as inevitable as the statistics suggested it should be to host another final on Saturday against Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who then beat Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-3. Not that Barty saw it, as he later admitted: “It’s a late game and I’m not in Spanish time yet. “I’m Australian, I go to bed early, I wake up early so I don’t think I’m seeing that.”

Barty is now on the brink of back-to-back European titles on clay, having beaten powerhouse Sabalenka in the Stuttgart final a fortnight ago. One of his great strengths is how he is wonderfully adapting to all opponents and conditions as he goes along, just as Badosa had feared he would after his win at Charleston.

“She is an incredible, incredible player. I think she can’t lose a game lately, ”the Spaniard, who had been the first Spaniard to reach the round of 16 in Madrid, admired. “Today I saw why.”

It took a little while for Barty to get going, but it just felt like watching a boxer soak up a few suckers, assess the puzzle, and then dismantle his opponent with the most accurate punches. She increased the pressure on the world’s No. 62’s serve the further the first set progressed, eventually breaking delivery in the 10th game, when a double fault from Badosa gave the Queenslander the stanza.

Thereafter, Barty excelled in cruise control, highlighting the Spaniard’s powerful game and forcing her to make a growing number of errors for her ninth consecutive win in a match in all conditions. And the really bad news for the world’s number one pursuers?

“I’ve learned a lot more about the clay court game, but I promise you I’m still counting the grass season,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite times of the year.”


www.theguardian.com

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