Top-ranked defending champion Ashleigh Barty advanced to the quarter-finals of the Miami Open on Tuesday (AEDT) by outlasting former world number one Victoria Azarenka 6-1 1-6 6-2.

Barty has now won 17 of her past 20 matches that have extended to a third set and taken her winning streak in Miami to nine matches, dating back to when she won the tournament in 2019.

Barty is in a fight to retain the world number one ranking after a slightly underwhelming start to 2021. She must make the final in Miami to guarantee her reign extends. If she loses before the semi-finals, Naomi Osaka can become No. 1 by reaching the finals.

The Aussie champ broke five times, the last when Azarenka netted a forehand volley to end matters after one hour and 52 minutes at Hard Rock Stadium.

Barty, who had to save a match point on the way to a three-set victory over Kristina Kucova in the second round, will face seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus after she took care of Czech 19th seed Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-2.

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The 2019 French Open winner dominated the first set but Azarenka broke her for a 2-0 lead in the second, then fought back from 0-40 down to hold for 3-0 on the way to forcing a third set, the Aussie failing to win a point off her second serve in the second set.

Barty and Azarenka traded breaks in the second and third games of the final set. Azarenka denied Barty on two break chances in the fourth game but the 24-year-old Queenslander broke in the sixth to seize the lead and again on the final point.

Victoria Azarenka congratulates Ash Barty. Picture: Mark Brown/Getty ImagesSource: AFP

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina rallied to defeat Czech ninth seed Petra Kvitova 2-6, 7-5, 7-5.

“I’m really happy with how I bounced back from being a set down,” Svitolina said. “I’m happy with how I’m playing and handling the pressure. I had to bring my best game to win.” She was also pleased with how well she has handled playing two three-setters in hot and humid conditions.

“I feel pretty fresh,” Svitolina said. “I’m pretty surprised. I’m feeling good. Ive been working really hard on my fitness and it’s paying off I guess.”

Svitolina’s quarter-final foe will be either Croatia’s 338th-ranked Ana Konjuh or Latvia’s 57th-ranked Anastasija Sevastova.

Men: Rublev to face Cilic

On the men’s side, Russian fourth seed Andrey Rublev routed Hungarian 29th seed Marton Fucsovics 6-2 6-1 to reach the fourth round.

“I’ve played some great tennis last couple of months,” Rublev said. “We’ll see if I can keep going.”

The 23-year-old from Moscow will next face Croatia’s 32-year-old Marin Cilic, who beat Italy’s 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti 6-3 6-4 in 74 minutes.

“Very pleased with today,” Cilic said. “Just have to battle it out with these youngsters. I’ve got to keep the heads high for the veterans on the tour.”

World number 45 Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, feels he is working his way back into match fitness.

“I felt really well in the practices. The off-season went really well,” he said. “Just missing matches. It just hurts the game a bit.”

Canada’s Milos Raonic, ranked 19th, advanced with a 6-4 7-5 victory over France’s 30th-ranked Ugo Humbert.

He will next face Polish 26th seed Hubert Hurkacz, who dispatched Canadian sixth seed Denis Shapovalov 6-3 7-6 (8/6).

— AFP



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