Tennis: Barty reaches Miami Open final as Hurkacz topples Tsitsipas

Ashleigh Barty reacts during her previous match against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.
Ashleigh Barty reacts during her previous match against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI (AFP) - World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty booked a return to the Miami Open final on Thursday (April 1) with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina.

Australia's Barty, who won the most recent edition of the event in 2019, is trying to make her first successful defence of a WTA title.

The Australian, already assured of remaining atop the world rankings next week after the quarter-final exit of Japan's Naomi Osaka, will face either eighth-seeded Canadian Bianca Andreescu or Greece's Maria Sakkari in the title match on Saturday.

But Greece’s Tsitsipas was left trying to explain a “self-explosion” after he squandered a commanding lead in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 quarter-final loss to 26th seed Hurkacz of Poland – the latest in a string of upsets that saw men’s top seed Daniil Medvedev and No. 3 Alexander Zverev bow out along with women’s No. 2 Naomi Osaka.

Tsitsipas admitted it was a crushing outcome in a tournament where the absences of superstars Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and his own recent solid form seemed to offer him a chance to shine.

“I felt like it was my opportunity,” Tsitsipas said. “I feel like there was more space for me to show something greater. It’s a very disappointing loss.

“It was there, everything was under control. And suddenly, I don’t know, self-explosion.”

Tsitsipas exited the tournament after a tense encounter that saw the 22-year-old Greek given a time violation after the second set for taking too long to change his shirt and headband.

The world No. 5 was also reportedly involved in a tense exchange with officials before the match after refusing to share a golf cart with Hurkacz used to ferry players to the court.

In the last four, Hurkacz will face Russian fourth seed Andrey Rublev who won a rain-interrupted quarter-final with a 7-5, 7-6 (9-7) victory over unseeded Sebastian Korda.

On the women’s side, Barty has gone from strength to strength since saving a match point in her opening victory over Slovakian qualifier Kristina Kucova.

“Every single match I felt like I’ve done something a little bit better, and that’s all you can ask,” said Barty, who opted not to travel outside Australia last year amid the coronavirus pandemic and withdrew from tournaments in Doha and Dubai in March with a leg injury.

She received treatment for an abdominal issue between sets on Thursday, but vowed she would be “right as rain” for a title showdown on Saturday against eighth-seeded former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu.

The Canadian needed all of he physical strength to beat Greek rival Maria Sakkari 7-6 (9-7), 3-6, 7-6 (7-4) in a gruelling match.