WTA Wuhan: Ashleigh Barty and Aryna Sabalenka advance into the semis



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WTA Wuhan: Ashleigh Barty and Aryna Sabalenka advance into the semis

Competing in Wuhan for the third straight year, world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty is through to the third semi-final following a hard-fought 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 triumph over Petra Martic in two hours and 22 minutes. Barty won just three points more than Martic, with four breaks on each side and the better performance from the Aussie in the second part of the final set to cross the finish line and stay on the title course.

The opening set lasted for an hour and it kicked off with back-to-back breaks before Ashleigh broke at love in the fourth game with a return winner. Petra pulled the break back in game seven and had two break chances in the 11th game, wasting those and repelling a set point on serve to reach a tie break where Martic played an incredible half-volley for a set point at 6-5.

Ashleigh saved it with a forehand winner and grabbed the breaker 8-6 when Petra's lob landed long. The second set offered eight commanding holds and one loose service game from Barty at 1-2, spraying a backhand slice error and allowing Martic to close the set with three dominant service games and send the clash into a decider.

There, they traded breaks in the opening games and it was Barty who grabbed another break in game eight following a double fault from Petra, clinching the victory with an ace in game nine to advance into the last four. The defending champion Aryna Sabalenka took down the young Kazakh Elena Rybakina 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 in an hour and 41 minutes thanks to a dominant display in the deciding set.

The Belarusian played better on the second set and fended off five out of seven break points offered to Elena who had to end this notable Wuhan run after suffering three breaks, losing steam despite a rock-solid second set that kept her in contention.

Aryna erased all three chances offered to Rybakina in the opening set and stole her serve already in the second game after a deep return, saving those break points in the seventh game and seizing the third set point two games later for a 6-3.

The Kazakh took charge in set number two, finding the range on serve and dropping only six points behind the initial shot to mount the pressure on the better-ranked opponent who couldn't deal with it. Sabalenka got broken in the second game after a double fault and again in game four following a basic backhand mistake that sent Elena 4-0 in front.

The Belarusian saved a set point on serve in the sixth game to avoid a bagel before Rybakina closed the set with a service winner a few minutes later to gather the momentum ahead of the decider. There, Aryna was back at her best, taking 20 of the first 27 points to race into a 5-0 lead and break the rival's resistance.

Elene got broken in games two and four, unable to control her shots against powerful attacks from Sabalenka who wasted two match points on the return in the sixth game before moving over the top with an ace in the next game to book the place in the last four against Barty on Friday.