Ashleigh Barty’s chance to move back to world No.1 was only one victory away but at the end of an up-and-down week she didn’t have another comeback left.
Barty lost to wildcard Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 6-4 in the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Open on Saturday, adding to the tournament’s week of upsets and injuries.
The women’s bracket has a lot questions with the US Open just around the corner.
The top ranking isn’t one of them.
Barty’s seven-week run as No.1 ended when Naomi Osaka edged ahead of her in the latest rankings.
A victory against Russian veteran Kuznetsova would have moved Barty back ahead for the final major of the year and hand her the top seed.
Instead, she dropped the opening set for the third-straight match and, this time, there was no digging out.
“A week that we battled through,” Barty said. “I think at times I played some good stuff. At times, I played some pretty awful stuff.”
Which will it be for Barty at the Open? And will Osaka be in good enough shape to defend her title?
Osaka dropped out of her Cincinnati semi-final on Friday with discomfort in her left knee that caused her worry.
She still plans to play at Flushing Meadows but it’s unclear whether the knee will be a problem.
And then there’s Serena Williams, who retired in the finals at Toronto last Sunday because of back spasms.
She withdrew from Cincinnati before her first match but stuck around to cheer sister Venus until her loss in the quarter-finals.
For Barty, it was another instance of a slow start leaving her trying to dig out.
This time, a resurgent Kuznetsova gave her no openings, knocking off a top-five player for the second time this week to reach her first final of the season.
“Sveta was unreal today,” Barty said.
The 34-year-old Kuznetsova – a two-time Australian Open winner – will soar up the rankings from 153rd after her recovery from a seven-month layoff due of a knee injury.
She’ll face Madison Keys in the final after the American 16th seed served 14 aces to beat countrywoman Sofia Kenin 7-5 6-4.