Ash Barty was no match for Simona Halep on clay.
Ash Barty was no match for Simona Halep on clay.

Barty given valuable lesson in clay play

Ashleigh Barty's first clay court quarterfinal has ended in defeat as former world No.1 Simona Halep ended the Aussie's 11-match winning streak with a clinical victory at the Madrid Open.

And the news just got better for Halep later in the day when Naomi Osaka's final eight loss to Belinda Bencic put her world No.1 ranking in danger. The Romanian looks set to be the beneficiary by ascending to the top ranking next week.

Halep swept into the final four with an efficient 7-5 7-5 win, although an occasionally off-balance Barty battled gamely before losing to a top-five player for the first time this year.

She twice broke back to level sets when Halep seemed on track for an easier progression.

However, the world No.3 was never seriously threatened as Barty, who beat Halep on Sydney's hard courts in January, committed 37 unforced errors.

The world's premier clay-court player also relied on an accurate first serve (87 per cent) to condemn Barty to her first defeat since Indian Wells and dash hopes of back-to-back semi-final appearances after her Miami Open triumph last month.

Barty will still rise to at least No.8 in the world rankings this week despite the setback to her French Open preparations.

Osaka admitted she "was thinking about too many things" in her 3-6 6-2 7-5 loss to Bencic.

Osaka has claimed the last two majors at the US and Australian Opens and will be looking for a third in succession when she travels to Paris for the French Open later this month.

However, she admitted that knowing her top WTA ranking could possibly be under threat might have played on her mind mid-match.

"I was just thinking about too many things. I wanted to win this match so much because she'd beaten me before -- I didn't want to lose twice in a row," said the 21-year-old.

"People have been telling me if I get to the semis here, I can stay number one.

"I wanted to do that but I was thinking about it while I was playing, which wasn't necessarily a good thing."

Meanwhile, Roger Federer saved two match points to defeat Gael Monfils in Madrid.

Federer, playing only his second match of a 2019 comeback to clay after three years away, needed two hours to defeat French showman Monfils 6-0 4-6 7-6 (7/3).

Men's top seed Novak Djokovic, however, motored into the last eight as he hammered Jeremy Chardy 6-1,7-6 (7/2) while five-time champion Rafael Nadal dispatched Frances Tiafoe 6-3 6-4.

Nadal will next play Stan Wawrinka after the Swiss completed a national hat-trick on the day, beating Japan's sixth seed Kei Nishikori 6-3 7-6 (7/3).

News Corp Australia


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