The sun came out and another illustrious victim bit the dust in the Spanish capital, leaving Ash Barty to celebrate a doubly enjoyable day – earning a Madrid Open semi-final place and getting a tan.
The world No.1 reckoned she had been looking forward to at last soaking up a few rays on the ‘Caja Magica’ court – and the weather duly obliged on Wednesday (local time) as the roof was opened and she was able to win her duel under the sun with old foe Petra Kvitova.
It wasn’t quite the vintage Barty who had outplayed French Open champ Iga Swiatek in the previous round but her 6-3 1-6 6-3 quarter-final win again showcased a player who’s seemingly forgotten how to lose as she came up trumps again when it mattered most.
She played her best tennis in the third set, as she’s done so often this year when winning 11 of her 12 matches that have gone to a final-set decider. For that, she reckoned, she could thank Kvitova, with whom she savoured every minute of their 10th engrossing battle.
“Actually, Petra and I said at the start of the match, ‘it’s a beautiful day, sun’s shining, like, let’s go and play, let’s enjoy it’,” said Barty, who prevailed in an helter-skelter one hour 48 minutes to make it five-all in their head-to-head.
“Any time you get to play claycourt tennis out in the sun, I feel like it adds a different element; the court can become quite bouncy and quick and the conditions can change dramatically – but it was certainly nice to get a bit of a tan today.
“Petra and I, we respect each other as tennis players, and I respect her immensely as a person. I love who she is as a person, and on the court it’s more than just about the result.
“We love to compete, we love to test each other, we love to test ourselves. Being able to enjoy it and have a smile on your face is a massive part why I feel the tennis is always a really good level.”
It was another mini-classic, Kvitova misfiring badly in the opener but showing the one-strike power to have Barty on the backfoot in the second. Then the Australian raised her level again, serving excellently under pressure, in the decider.
Kvitova struck 28 winners to Barty’s 15 but the 31-year-old Czech made 44 errors, many of which weren’t actually ‘unforced’ but were down to a little persuasion from Barty’s all-court wiles.
Next up for Barty in Thursday’s last-four clash is a chance for revenge against Spanish wildcard Paul Badosa, who’s one of only three women to beat her in 2021 – in Charleston in April on the green clay when the Australian looked distinctly weary coming off her triumph in Miami.
“Ash, what can I say? I played her in Charleston. Now she knows me. No.1 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,” said world No.62 Badosa.
She had an emotional win on Wednesday, defeating Swiss Belinda Bencic 6-4 7-5 and then getting on to her hands and knees and kissing the clay, which she now admits may not have been the best idea.
“It didn’t felt so good, because I had clay in all my face,” she smiled ruefully. “But, yeah, I’m happy about it.”