Ashleigh Barty Denied in Bid to Return to No. 1

MASON, Ohio — Ashleigh Barty’s chance to move back to No. 1 was only one victory away. But at the end of an up-and-down week, she did not have another one left in her.

Barty lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-2, 6-4, in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday, adding to the tournament’s week of upsets and injuries. The women’s bracket has a lot questions with the United States Open in New York just around the corner.

No. 1 isn’t one of them.

Barty’s seven-week run atop the field ended when Naomi Osaka edged ahead of her in the latest rankings. A victory Saturday would have moved Barty back ahead for the U.S. Open. Instead, she dropped the opening set for the third straight match, and this time, there was no digging out.

“A week that we battled through,” Barty said. “I think at times I played some good stuff. At times, I played some pretty awful stuff.”

Which will it be for Barty at the Open? And will Osaka be in good enough shape to defend her title?

Osaka dropped out of her semifinal match Friday with discomfort in her left knee. She still plans to play in New York, but it’s unclear whether the knee will be a problem.

And then there’s Serena Williams, who retired in the final at Toronto last Sunday because of back spasms. She also withdrew before her first match here, but stuck around to cheer her sister Venus until her loss in the quarterfinals.

For Barty, it was another instance of a slow start leaving her trying to dig out. This time, a resurgent Kuznetsova gave her no openings. Kuznetsova knocked off a top-five player for the second time in a week and reached her first final of the season.

“Sveta was unreal today,” Barty said.

It has been awhile since her play has been described that way.

ImageAshleigh Barty, right, would have returned to No. 1 in the ranking with a win on Saturday.
Ashleigh Barty, right, would have returned to No. 1 in the ranking with a win on Saturday.CreditRob Carr/Getty Images

Ranked 153rd, Kuznetsova is recovering from a seven-month layoff because of a knee injury. Playing in her ninth event of the season, she got her game together, winning her first Premier-level semifinal since 2017 at Madrid.

“Well, sometimes in life it’s like this,” she said. “It’s like really small things change everything. Definitely it’s different momentum I have now.”

She’ll face Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin, 7-5, 6-4, with the help of 14 aces. Keys ended her streak of failing to make it past the second round of her last three tournaments, reaching the final at Cincinnati for the first time.

In the men’s bracket, David Goffin of Belgium reached his first Masters 1000 final by beating Richard Gasquet of France, 6-3, 6-4. Goffin also is on an upswing after falling to No. 33 in the ATP rankings on June 10, his lowest since September 2014.

“Of course, it was a tough period there,” Goffin said. “I was coming back from injuries. I had some trouble with my confidence. I couldn’t find my rhythm, my game. So it’s great now. I’m feeling great. I’m back at my best tennis.”

The men’s defending champion, Novak Djokovic, was scheduled for an evening match against Daniil Medvedev.

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