World number one Ash Barty battled through injury and a stubborn opponent in Bernarda Pera on Tuesday to advance to round two of the French open in three sets.

Barty, who missed out on the chance of defending her title at Roland Garros last year due to coronavirus restrictions, struggled with a back issue but still prevailed 6-4 3-6 6-2.

The top seed had 18 winners to 25 unforced errors as she made it eight wins in Paris, where either Magda Linette or Chloe Paquet await in the next round.

She had little trouble in seeing out the first set, hitting 80 per cent of her first serves, but she became passive from that point on and her opponent took advantage in the second set.

World number 70 Pera earned the only break in the second game and took her second set point to level up the contest.

Barty then had a scare as she called a medical time out at the beginning of the deciding set, but she looked a lot more focused from that point on.

The Australian saved the two break points she faced and broke Pera in the sixth and eighth games to pick up the victory in exactly two hours.

"This court is very close to my heart," Barty said in her on-court interview. "It's so nice to play here in front of fans, you make it enjoyable for players. 

"Thank you very much. I just keep fighting. I was able to build more pressure in the third set which was important but Bernarda played an incredible match."

In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes – a statement largely true until Rafael Nadal emerged on the scene and made the French Open his own.

Since breaking through for his first Roland Garros triumph in 2005, only three other men – Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic – have managed to interrupt Nadal's dominance in Paris.

Nadal has won 13 French Open men's singles titles, seven more than any other player in the Open era (Bjorn Borg, six) heading into this year's edition.

Despite being seeded third, it would take a brave person to bet against defending champion Nadal adding to his mammoth and unprecedented haul in the French capital, where the second grand slam of the year gets underway on Sunday.

On the women's side, defending champion Iga Swiatek is looking to follow in the footsteps of Belgian great Justine Henin.

As all eyes shift to Court Philippe Chatrier and its surroundings, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind this year's slam, using Opta data.

 

The 'King of Clay'

Nadal will open his title defence against Australian Alexei Popyrin. Since 2000, only Nadal (13) and Gustavo Kuerten (two) have won the French Open more than once.

The 34-year-old swept aside world number one Djokovic in straight sets last year for his fourth consecutive French Open crown and 20th slam trophy, equalling Roger Federer's all-time record. Nadal maintained his stranglehold on the major, having not dropped a set throughout the fortnight. Only three players have previously won the French Open without losing a single set: Ilie Nastase in 1973, Bjorn Borg in 1978 and 1980 and Nadal in 2008, 2010, 2017 and 2020.

Nadal is the only player to have won the same slam more than 10 times. He has lost just two of the 102 matches played in Paris (excluding walkovers), losing to Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round and Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals, while has won each of the last 30.

The record for most slam titles on the men's circuit will also be up for grabs, with Nadal and the returning Federer seeking to snap their tie.

In the last 25 years, the number one seed has won the French Open on only five occasions – Nadal (2018, 2014 and 2011), Djokovic (2016) and Kuerten (2001). It does not bode well for top seed and 18-time major champion Djokovic, who is looking to close the gap on foes Nadal and Federer.

Australian Open champion Djokovic, who will face Tennys Sandgren in the first round, has reached the final in seven of the last 10 slams he contested, claiming six titles. However, the Serbian star has only featured in five French Open deciders (W1 L4) – fewer than in any of the other three major tournaments.

 

Declining Federer, Nadal challengers?

The French Open will be a welcome sight for tennis fans as Swiss great Federer, who has not played a slam since the 2020 Australian Open due to his troublesome knee and the coronavirus pandemic, makes his comeback.

Seeded eighth ahead of his opener against Denis Istomin, 2009 French Open champion Federer has only contested nine slam finals over the last 10 years (W4 L5) after reaching that stage in 22 major events in the previous decade (W16 L6). Since the beginning of 2016, the 39-year-old has only taken part in one French Open, in 2019, where he reached the semi-finals.

Daniil Medvedev has been flirting with a breakthrough slam triumph. The second seed is a finalist at the Australian Open (2021) and US Open (2019). Medvedev has reached the semi-finals in two of his most recent three appearances at a grand slam after going further than the fourth round in only one of his previous 13 major tournaments. However, the Russian has lost in the first round in each of his four Roland Garros appearances.

US Open champion and fourth seed Dominic Thiem has played two finals at Roland Garros (2018 and 2019) – more than in any other slam – but lost both of them against Nadal. He has won 80 per cent of his games at the French Open, his best win rate in any of the four majors.

Andrey Rublev is the only player to have taken part in the quarter-finals during each of the past three grand slams, including the 2020 French Open. But the seventh seed – who fired down 53 aces at Roland Garros last year, at least 14 more than any other player – is yet to progress further than that round.

Aslan Karatsev enjoyed a fairy-tale run at Melbourne Park in February, the Russian qualifier making it all the way to the semi-finals. Only one qualifier has reached the semi-final stage at the French Open: Filip Dewulf in 1997.

 

Iga in 14-year first?

Having never progressed beyond the fourth round of a major, Polish teenager Swiatek broke through for her maiden slam title via the French Open last year, upstaging Sofia Kenin.

The 19-year-old Swiatek – who will return as the eighth seed in her defence, starting against Kaja Juvan – could become the first woman to win consecutive titles at Roland Garros since Henin in 2005-2007 (three in a row). Only three players have won multiple titles in the women's tournament at the French Open in the 21st century: Henin (four), Serena Williams (three) and Maria Sharapova (two).

Swiatek could claim the French Open and Rome's Internazionali d'Italia in the same campaign. Only Serena Williams (2002 and 2013), Sharapova (2012), Monica Seles (1990), Steffi Graf (1987) and Chris Evert (1974, 1975 and 1980) have achieved the feat previously.

Swiatek celebrated slam glory in the absence of world number one and defending champion Ash Barty in 2020. No player has won more games on clay this season than Australian top seed Barty and Veronika Kudermetova (both 13).

Only Barty (three) has won more titles than third seed Aryna Sabalenka (two) in 2021 – the Belarusian is one of two players currently ranked in the top 20 in the WTA yet to reach a major quarter-final, alongside Maria Sakkari.

In a field also including four-time slam champion and reigning Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka – the second seed – Sabalenka could become only the third woman to win the Madrid Open and French Open in the same season after Serena Williams in 2013 and Sharapova in 2014.

As for fourth seed Kenin, she could be just the fourth American player to reach back-to-back Roland Garros finals, after Serena Williams (2015-16), Martina Navratilova (1984-1987) and Evert (1973-1975, 1979-80 and 1983-1986).

 

All eyes on Serena

The queen of WTA tennis for so long, Serena Williams is one slam success away from matching Margaret Court's record of 24 major singles championships. But the 39-year-old has been stuck on 23 since reigning supreme at the Australian Open in 2017.

While the French clay is not one of her favourite surfaces, it could be the scene of a remarkable achievement following a lengthy wait.

Roland Garros is where Williams has the lowest winning percentage (84 per cent) and where she won the fewest titles (three, at least half as many as the other slams).

Williams won her maiden French Open in 2002 and could hoist the trophy aloft 19 years after her first success in Paris. The longest span between two majors wins for a single player in the Open era is already held by Williams (15 years between 1999 and 2014 at the US Open).

Irina-Camelia Begu awaits the seventh seed in the first round.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic could meet at the semi-final stage of the French Open, while Iga Swiatek and Ash Barty are in the same half of the draw.

Nadal will start his quest to win the Paris grand slam a staggering 14th time with a first-round encounter against Australian Alexei Popyrin next week.

Defending champion Nadal, the third seed, is in the same half of the draw as fellow all-time greats Djokovic and Federer, who could face the Serbian world number one in the last eight.

Top seed Djokovic, who is two major titles shy of the record of 20 held by Federer and Nadal, will take on Tennys Sandgren in the first round.

Swiss great Federer will come up against a qualifier in round one at Roland Garros, while two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem is up against Pablo Andujar.

Pole Swiatek claimed her maiden grand slam title at the French Open last year and takes on her close friend Kaja Juvan in the first round.

World number one Barty, who did not travel to Paris to defend her title in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, has will make her return at the clay-court major against Bernarda Pera.

Serena Williams comes up against Irina-Camelia Begu, while last year's runner-up Sofia Kenin must do battle with the 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko in a standout first-round match.

Carla Suarez Navarro can expect plenty of support when she takes on Sloane Stephens in her first tournament since successfully completing cancer treatment.

Ash Barty dramatically abandoned her Internazionali d'Italia quarter-final against Coco Gauff on Friday due to a right arm injury.

The world number one was leading 6-4 2-1 in Rome when, with her left thigh also heavily strapped, she pulled out of the match following talks with a trainer.

Barty's decision was precautionary as she will begin her French Open campaign in a little over two weeks' time, bidding to regain the title she won two years ago.

The scare came just hours after world number three Simona Halep announced she tore a calf muscle this week, putting the Romanian's Roland Garros prospects in some doubt.

Providing an update after the match with Gauff, which was interrupted by a rain delay, Australian Barty said: "The pain was becoming too severe so it was important to listen to my body and do the right thing knowing we have a slam."

Gauff, who had hit 12 winners to 15 unforced errors prior to her opponent's withdrawal, will now compete in her first career WTA 1000 semi-final.

Karolina Pliskova remained on course for a second Rome triumph in three years, after saving three match points to edge out Jelena Ostapenko.

The 2019 champion, who also finished runner-up last year, was 5-4 down in the final set when digging deep to hold off her 49th-ranked opponent.

The thrilling match went to a tie-break and Pliskova reeled off seven straight points after losing the opener to advance 4-6 7-5 7-6 (7-1).

"I'm just proud of how I fought," Pliskova said at her post-match news conference. "I'm happy that I stayed in there and fought until the end.

"We played last month, so I knew what was going to be happening. You can never get ready for some of the balls which she's playing."

Petra Martic stands between Pliskova and a place in the final for the third year running after the Croatian defeated Jessica Pegula 7-5 6-4.

Pegula eliminated Naomi Osaka earlier in the week but was second best against Martic, who progressed in one hour and 40 minutes.

Martic trailed 2-0 in the opening set before twice breaking Pegula to move 3-2 in front, but her opponent hit back to make it 5-5 in a tight contest.

However, Martic managed to break in the 11th game and served out the set, before showing her steeliness in the second to remain on course for a maiden WTA 1000 crown.  

Ash Barty will meet Coco Gauff in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia after an impressive defeat of Veronika Kudermetova.

The world number one claimed her 27th Tour-level win of this year, seeing off Kudermetova 6-3 6-3 in 81 minutes to reach the last eight in Rome for the first time.

Barty admitted it took some time to get used to the "wow factor" of centre court in the Italian capital, but she rarely looked under threat as she moved to 13-2 on clay in 2021.

The Australian would have faced Aryna Sabalenka for the third tournament in a row had it not been for a sterling performance from Gauff, who won 7-5 6-3 to secure a fourth quarter-final this year.

"Coco has shown that she loves to bring her best tennis against the players that challenge her the most," said Barty, who has never played against the American teenager. "She's played an exceptional tournament thus far. She's got the ability to take the game on. She's aggressive, she can run, she can trust her legs.

"I think it's going to be important for me to try to get the match back on my terms as often as possible. I know when they're in her patterns, the way she likes to play, she's extremely dangerous and very good at what she does. I think it's going to be a new challenge, a clean slate for both of us."

Matters were more difficult for reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek, who saved two match points before beating Barbora Krejcikova 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 in a contest lasting nearly three hours.

Powerful serving from Krejcikova and some errant shots from Swiatek gifted the Czech the chance to serve out a straight-sets win, but Swiatek held firm before taking the tie-break.

Swiatek persisted with a drop shot that seemed to cause difficulties for her and her opponent before Krejcikova's aim went awry at the end of the decider.

"I had fun when I played drop shots because today I felt them really good," said Swiatek, who will now face fifth seed Elina Svitolina after her 6-4 6-2 beating of Garbine Muguruza.

"I asked myself a question, what would annoy me in that situation? So, I tried to do that. So, yeah, sometimes it didn't look pretty, but I'm happy that I could do that. One year ago I wouldn't even come up with a solution like that. That's a progress."

Jessica Pegula followed up her shock win over Naomi Osaka by defeating Ekaterina Alexandrova in straight sets. She will now face Petra Martic, who came from a set down to defeat world number 44 Nadia Podoroska – conqueror of Serena Williams on Wednesday.

Ninth seed Karolina Pliskova, who beat Vera Zvonareva 7-5 6-3, will face Jelena Ostapenko following her three-set defeat of Angelique Kerber.

Aryna Sabalenka won the Madrid Open after a 6-0 3-6 6-4 victory over world number one Ashleigh Barty on Saturday.

Sabalenka wrapped up the first set to love in just 25 minutes as an unusually sluggish Barty struggled to find any kind of rhythm to her game.

Barty, who had won 16 consecutive matches on red clay, rallied in the second set to get herself back on level terms.

At 4-4 in the deciding set Sabalenka broke Barty and then held her nerve on serve to secure her 10th WTA Tour career title which will see her climb up to fourth from seventh in the world rankings on Monday.

Barty was on a streak of nine consecutive WTA Tour titles and had not lost to an opponent in the top 10 since the WTA Finals in 2019.

But in-form Sabalenka had not dropped a single set in Madrid in the lead-up to the final and began in imperious fashion.

The 23-year-old from Belarus produced a clinical first set, dropping just four points, as Barty failed to win a single game in the set to record a bagel for the first time in four years.

The pair exchanged breaks in the second set before Australian Barty, 25, finally discovered some momentum to break her opponent again to seal the set.

Sabalenka squandered a one-set lead to lose to Barty in the Stuttgart Open final two weeks ago.

And Barty, also playing in the final of the tournament for the first time, had threatened to break her opponent at 4-3 in the decider.

But this time Sabalenka took her chance when Barty fluffed a drop shot and then double faulted to give her three break points, converting at the first time of asking with a powerful backhand.

Sabalenka then clinically sealed victory with a flawless service game to love, clinching victory when Barty smashed a forehand into the net.

"To be honest, after the final in Stuttgart I was injured, I couldn't move and wanted to withdraw," Sabalenka said in an on-court interview after the win.

"But the recovery was good, in four days I feel better and now I'm the champion. It's been an amazing week."

Aryna Sabalenka will have a shot at redemption when she faces top seed Ash Barty in the Madrid Open final after beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets on Thursday.

World number seven Sabalenka squandered a one-set lead to lose to Barty in the Stuttgart Open final two weeks ago.

But she will have another crack at winning silverware in the Spanish capital in Saturday's final against Barty, who saw off Paula Badosa in straight sets in the other last-four match.

"I'm looking forward to the final," she said in her on-court interview. "First of all I will have a good rest and do everything I can to prepare myself as good as I can. 

"It'll be really interesting to play another final against Ash. I think it'll be a great battle. I think everyone coming here can see themselves winning the tournament. I'll do my best."

Sabalenka had not dropped a single set in Madrid in the lead-up to the semi-final and that remains the case after cruising past Pavlyuchenkova in a little over an hour.

The fifth seed converted four of her five break points and won 73 per cent of her second-service points.

Pavlyuchenkova, ranked 41st in the world, lost serve in the fourth and eighth games of the opening set and failed to hold on her first two service games in the second set.

Despite breaking Sabalenka in the seventh game, the Belarussian proved far too strong for her opponent and got over the line with a fourth ace of the match to reach her third final of the season.

Ash Barty saw off Paula Badosa in straight sets to reach the final of the Madrid Open, extending her unbeaten streak on clay to 16 matches.

The world number one triumphed 6-4 6-3 on Thursday, taking her record for 2021 to an impressive 25-3.

Badosa is the only player to have beaten Barty since February, but the Spaniard was unable to pull off a repeat of her upset in their quarter-final clash in Charleston last month.

The world number 62 had become the first Spanish player to reach the semi-finals in Madrid and there was little to split the pair through the opening nine games.

However, when serving at 5-4 down to stay in the set, Badosa suddenly came under pressure.

The wildcard saved two set points but gifted her opponent a 1-0 lead with a double fault. A similar situation early in the second put Barty 3-1 up, though she had to save three break points in her next service game.

After escaping trouble on that occasion, the Australian had no further issues on her way to completing the win after one hour and 15 minutes on court.

Standing in her way of a fourth title this season will be either Aryna Sabalenka or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova; they will meet in the second semi-final in the evening session in the Spanish capital.

The in-form Barty has already been crowned champion at the Yarra Valley Classic this year, as well as events in Miami and Stuttgart.

Ashleigh Barty will face the only woman on the WTA Tour to have beaten her since February after the world number one set up a Madrid Open semi-final with Paula Badosa.

Barty took her winning streak on the red clay to 15, overcoming ninth seed Petra Kvitova 6-1 3-6 6-3 to reach the last four in Madrid for the first time.

Among active players, the Australian's red-clay run is bettered only by Serena Williams (32 matches in 2013-14) and Sara Errani (16 in 2012).

The 2019 French Open champion is 24-3 for the season and has now won her last 10 matches against top-20 opponents and five of the last six with Kvitova.

Kvitova's hopes of claiming a rare win over Barty were boosted when she sent the match to a decider, but Barty took her formidable record in three-setters this year to 11-1.

"It's just always staying in the fight," Barty said of her performance in deciders this season. "Always staying in the hunt and never letting it slide away.

"That certainly doesn't guarantee results, doesn't guarantee success. It guarantees you give yourself the best chance to do what you do and to figure it out and to find your way."

Finding her way on the WTA Tour is 23-year-old Badosa, who moved up to a career-high ranking of 62 after a run to the semi-finals in Charleston last month.

She defeated Barty in straight sets en route to the last four having beaten Belinda Bencic earlier in the tournament.

Badosa got the better of Bencic again on home soil on Wednesday, prevailing 6-4 7-5, the Swiss paying the price for a string of unforced errors at the end of each set.

"I expect a completely different match," Badosa said of the reunion with Barty.

"She's the number one in the world. Now she knows me. Number one in the world, they don't like to make mistakes two times in a row, so for sure I expect a tough match and completely different to Charleston."

Aryna Sabalenka is through to the semi-finals after Elise Mertens retired from their clash with a thigh injury. Sabalenka had held a commanding 6-1 4-0 lead.

She will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is into her first WTA 1000 semi in over a decade after recording her fourth top-25 win of the week by defeating Karolina Muchova in straight sets.

At L'Open 35 de Saint-Malo, sixth seed Arantxa Rus and seventh seed Jasmine Paolini each lost in the round of 16 but fifth seed Viktorija Golubic fought back to defeat Greet Minnen in three sets.

Ash Barty extended her winning streak to 14 matches on clay with a straight-sets defeat of Iga Swiatek at the Madrid Open.

The 2019 French Open champion defeated last year's winner at Roland Garros 7-5 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals in the Spanish capital.

Swiatek herself came into the contest having won 18 consecutive sets on clay and took early control of the contest as she went 3-0 up in the opener.

However, Barty recovered thanks to imperious play behind her serve as she won 80 per cent of all points behind her first delivery and avoided being broken for the remainder of the contest.

The world number one was 0-40 down at 3-2 in the second but rallied to hold before seeing out the win.

Barty will now face ninth seed Petra Kvitova in the last eight after she battled past Veronika Kudermetova 6-3 4-6 6-4.

The three-time Madrid Open champion required just over two hours to beat the Russian, who has won more matches in 2021 (22) than anyone except Barty (23).

"Always playing Ash, it's a great challenge," Kvitova said. "It will be a great match-up. I really will enjoy it. I'm really looking forward for it.

"She has a game for clay. She's sliding. She's playing lots of slice and everything... She likes clay a little bit more than me probably. I like Madrid. So, who knows, right?"

Eighth seed Belinda Bencic is also through after Ons Jabeur retired from their match with a thigh injury. She will now face Paula Badosa, who needed more than two and a half hours to defeat Anastasija Sevastova in three sets.

At the L'Open 35 de Saint-Malo, Alize Cornet suffered a surprise defeat in the first round as Oceane Dodin prevailed in a marathon match.

Dodin knocked out the top seed in two hours and 56 minutes, recovering after letting two match points slip in the second-set tie-break to win 7-5 6-7 (8-10) 6-1.

Third seed Alison van Uytvanck also made an early exit as Anna Karolina Schmiedlova came from a set down to prevail 2-6 7-5 6-3.

But Viktorija Golubic was victorious, the fifth seed winning in straight sets against Clara Burel.

Ash Barty overcame Tamara Zidansek and her own disjointed performance to reach the third round of the Madrid Open on Saturday.

The Australian triumphed 6-4 1-6 6-3 after nearly two hours on court to extend her winning streak on clay to 13 matches.

Barty will face reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek in the next round, the 19-year-old having eased past Laura Siegemund 6-3 6-3 in a contest where she failed to take 10 match points before getting over the line.

Barty endured a more troubled contest with Zidansek, landing just 51 per cent of her first serves.

Zidansek lost the opener after a wayward forehand at 4-4 but was authoritative in the second as she won a set against a top-10 player for the first time.

However, a series of errors early in the decider allowed world number one Barty to open up a lead she did not relinquish. Barty was champion at Roland Garros in 2019 but skipped last year's Paris grand slam, so the clash with Swiatek will pit together the two most recent French Open winners.

"[It was] a really tough match," Barty said after edging out Zidansek. "I felt my margins were a little bit off. I made a lot of errors. I think I was missing in the right way, but still just a foot or two here or there makes a big difference. I felt like there were probably too many loose ones for me today.

"I don't think there was a lot in it by any means. We had a lot of close games in the first set, early in the second set. In the third, as well, there were a lot of close games. I think the response early in the third was good. I was a bit more aggressive, was able to bring the match back on my terms."

Petra Kvitova set up a meeting with Veronika Kudermetova – who knocked out defending champion Kiki Bertens – after overcoming long-time rival Angelique Kerber 6-4 7-5.

Kerber got the opening break in each set, only to drop serve in the next game, with Kvitova ultimately rewarded for powerful hitting as she ended the contest with 33 winners to her opponent's 14.

"I served very well, especially in the important points," said Kvitova, who leads the head-to-head record 8-6. "I think we really played very well. She even served very well, as well. It was tough to attack her serve."

Fifteenth seed Johanna Konta suffered a straight-sets loss to Anastasija Sevastova, while Ons Jabeur fought back to beat Sloane Stephens.

Jil Teichmann saved six match points in a stunning defeat of Elina Svitolina before Ash Barty breezed into the second round of the Madrid Open on Thursday.

Teichmann produced an astonishing fightback to beat fourth seed Svitolina 2-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5) at the Caja Magica.

Unseeded Swiss Teichmann came from a set and a break down to claim the scalp of the world number five, who squandered a commanding 5-1 lead in the final set.

Svitolina saw six match points come and go in an incredible deciding set, opportunities she was left to rue when the 40-ranked Teichmann won a tie-break to end a contest that took two hours and 33 minutes to settle.

World number one Barty extended her winning run on clay to 12 matches with a 6-2 6-1 success over Shelby Rogers.

Barty claimed her third title of the year in Stuttgart last weekend and the Australian needed just an hour to send Rogers packing, losing just two points on her first serve and not facing a single break point.

French Open champion Iga Swiatek was also an emphatic winner, easing past another American in the form of Alison Riske 6-1 6-1.

Swiatek, making her debut in this tournament, has won 16 consecutive matches on clay after blowing Riske away.

Defending champion Kiki Bertens beat 15-year-old Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva 6-4 6-0, while Petra Kvitova progressed when opponent Marie Bouzkova retired due to hand injury after the Czech won the first set.

Garbine Muguruza was forced to withdraw ahead of her meeting with Sloane Stephens due to a leg injury. Belinda Bencic, Angelique Kerber and Johanna Konta were among the other winners in the Spanish capital.

Ash Barty came from a set down for the third time this week as the world number one continued a superb 2021 with victory at the Stuttgart Open.

Barty overcame Aryna Sabalenka 3-6 6-0 6-3 to lift an 11th career title and her third of the season after successes at the Miami Open and the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne.

It proved to be another comeback triumph against a top-10 opponent for Barty, who saw off Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.

Sabalenka was ready to seize upon another sluggish Barty start and forced three break points at 3-2 in the opener.

The Australian was able to hang on that time, but Sabalenka fashioned two more and a botched Barty drop shot meant it was fifth time lucky.

The rapid progress of set two suggested Barty had merely been warming up, snaffling her third break point at 1-0 and dispatching a magnificent forehand cross-court winner to surge 4-0 ahead.

A bagel felt inevitable from that point and, after a 20-minute second set, Sabalenka was sinking without a trace when she slipped 3-0 behind in the decider.

The fifth seed broke back before being undermined by an untimely double fault at 3-2 – one of 39 unforced errors – and Barty faced down three break points in the following game.

A superb display, featuring 26 winners and five break points converted from 12 opportunities, concluded when Barty wrapped things up on her second match point.

Ash Barty will meet Aryna Sabalenka in the Stuttgart Open final after Simona Halep's quest to win the tournament for the first time fell short.

World number three Halep had claimed straight-set wins over Ekaterina Alexandrova and Marketa Vondrousova en route to the semi-finals, but met her match in the form of Belarusian Sabalenka, who triumphed 6-3 6-2.

A nine-time singles champion, Sabalenka made it into a 14th career final without conceding a single break, as she managed to keep Romanian Halep at arm's length.

Standing between Sabalenka and a 10th singles title is world number one Barty who, on her 25th birthday, came from behind to defeat Elina Svitolina 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.

Making her tournament debut in Stuttgart, Barty had overcome Laura Siegemund and Karolina Pliskova, but found herself at 5-4 down in the second set, with Svitolina serving for the match.

The fourth seed failed to take her chance, with Barty breaking and subsequently biting back in the tie-break, before carrying the momentum into the decider to claim a third straight win over Svitolina.

Top seed Elise Mertens made it to her second Istanbul Open as she saw off her doubles partner and birthday girl Veronika Kudermetova 6-1 6-4.

It means Mertens will be playing in two finals on Sunday, as she pairs up with Kudermetova again in the doubles showdown against Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya.

Mertens' win ended Charleston champion Kudermetova's nine-match winning streak, and set up a final against the unseeded Sorana Cirstea, who defeated Marta Kostyuk 6-4 6-4.

World number one Ash Barty survived a scare to reach the semi-finals of the Stuttgart Open with a 2-6 6-1 7-5 win over Karolina Pliskova.

The Australian started slowly in the quarter-final of the WTA 500 tournament on Friday as Pliskova broke her serve twice in taking the first set, before Barty hit back with three breaks of her own to force a decider.

Barty was two points away from losing on five occasions as world number nine Pliskova served for the match at 5-4 in the final set.

But she broke the Czech's resolve eventually, sealing victory when Pliskova hit the ball long after a baseline rally.

The win was Barty's eighth consecutive victory over a top-10 opponent and she said in a media conference afterwards that facing top players in the world brings the best out of her.

"When you come up against top-10 opponents, you have to go to that level above to be able to compete. They force you to bring your best," Barty said.

"With a lot of the girls in the top 10, we've had plenty of matches that have gone either way, different experiences, so each time I love that challenge of testing myself against the best."

Barty will face Elina Svitolina in the semi-finals after she saved two match points to claim a 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-2 victory over Petra Kvitova.

In the other half of the draw, Simona Halep breezed through to the semi-finals with a 6-1 6-4 win over Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Halep clinically closed out the first set, and although Alexandrova showed more fight in the second, the world number three did not allow her a route back into the match.

Halep will face Aryna Sabalenka following the Belarusian's 7-5 4-6 6-1 win over Anett Kontaveit.

In the Istanbul Cup, top seed Elise Mertens secured her place in the semi-finals with a 6-4 6-4 win over Katerina Siniakova.

Mertens will face Veronika Kudermetova who fought back from a set down to clinch a 2-6 6-3 6-3 win over Ana Bogdan.

The other semi-final will see Sorana Cirstea play Marta Kostyuk. Cirstea progressed after Fiona Ferro, trailing 6-4, retired through injury while Kostyuk beat Ana Konjuh 7-5 4-6 6-3.

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