Ash Barty is poised to make history as the first Australian woman to hold tennis’ world no.1 ranking at year’s end.
Barty reclaimed the top spot after its previous holder, Naomi Osaka, suffered a 7-5 6-4 loss to Swiss Belinda Bencic in the fourth round of the US Open.
The loss places Barty as hot favourite to end the year as no.1 despite crashing out of the New York competition herself in a ‘frustrating’ match up against China’s Qiang Wang.
It would make Barty only the second Australian after Lleyton Hewitt (2001 and 2002) to enjoy year-end top status since rankings were introduced in 1973.
The 23-year-old said such an achievement “would be incredible”.
“I don’t know what I would need to do to get there. I haven’t really sat down and done the maths or anything like that,” Barty said in New York.
“But I have had my schedule planned for the last part of the year for the last few months, so that certainly won’t change.”
Barty’s climb to the summit has been built on consistency.
The Queenslander has won an equal-tour-best 45 wins in 2019 and lost only 11 matches in 12 months since last year’s US Open.
She’s also only the second Australian woman to hold the no.1 spot after Evonne Goolagong Cawley claimed the crown for two weeks in 1976.
Top seeds absent from quarter-finals
Naomi Osaka’s exit from the US Open means both top seeds will be missing from the quarter-finals for the first time since the Open Era began in 1968.
Swiss rival Belinda Bencic broke Osaka at love in the fifth game of the second set on a double fault from the Japanese star.
The defeat lets her slip to fourth in the rankings, according to the WTA, ahead of Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep – although both of them are also already out in New York.
21-year-old Osaka found no answer to the accuracy and consistency of the Bencic as she lost for the third time this year to the 13th-seeded Swiss player on a rainy Monday.
Meanwhile, Croatia’s Donna Vekic came out on top in her match up with Germany’s Julia Goerges to proceed to the next round.
Vekic, who lost to Goerges at this stage in last year’s Open, had to dig out of a hole to beat the No.26 German this time.
Vekic was down 5-4 in the second set and faced a match point against her, but Goerges failed to close it out in a service game in which she double-faulted three times.
In the deciding set, Vekic made a crucial service break to go up 5-3 and closed out the match when she put up a lob that Goerges slammed long.
The win will see Vekic play Bencic in the next round. Vekic beat Bencic in the third round of this year’s French Open.
– with AAP