Kuznetsova denies Barty

Sunday, August 18, 2019

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CI NCINNATI, United States (AFP) — Resurgent Svetlana Kuznetsova denied Ashleigh Barty a chance to reclaim the world number one ranking yesterday as the Russian veteran thrashed the Australian 6-2, 6-4 in the WTA Cincinnati Masters semi-finals.

Barty could have retaken the top ranking she lost last week to Japan's Naomi Osaka had she reached the final.

The shutdown triumph by the 34-year-old double Grand Slam winner leaves injured Osaka atop the rankings with the US Open starting a week from tomorrow.

Kuznetsova will play for the title on Sunday against the winner of a later semi-final between Americans Sofia Kenin and Madison Keys.

In the men's draw, 2018 semi-finalist David Goffin reached his first ATP Masters level final by defeating France's Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-4.

The Belgian, the 2017 London ATP Finals runner-up, controlled Gasquet a day after advancing by walkover against Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka.

Goffin will face either top-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia or Russia's Daniil Medvedev in today's final.

Barty, who had rallied from a set down to win her previous two matches, was off the boil against Kuznetsova, who is back on form after several seasons of injuries, including a wrist problem.

Kuznetsova was delayed in her hardcourt summer start due to US visa problems, but won two rounds last week in Canada before getting her American entry sorted.

Kuznetsova, who trained as a teen in Barcelona, has returned to her Spanish tennis roots, rehiring former coach Carlos Martinez, who has also worked with Spaniards Feliciano Lopez, Fernando Vicente and Rafael Nadal's occasional doubles partner Marc Lopez.

Martinez coached Kuznetsova to 2016 titles Sydney and Moscow, which earned her a place in the year-end finals three years ago, and she remains pleased with the results.

Kuznetsova broke Barty three times in the opening set and ran off eight consecutive games to reach 2-0 in the second set.

From there, it was just a matter of time, with the player who came into the field on a wild card entry showing her best game.

Kuznetsova reached three match points after 67 minutes and converted on the first with a winner past Barty, who had more than 25 unforced errors, mainly off her forehand.

Kuznetsova, bidding for her 19th career title, now stands 15-8 in Cincinnati, the final major tune-up for the Open. Her season record is 12-8 after only returning to the courts last April.


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