Barty beats Azarenka to level Fed Cup at 1-1
Ash Barty's straight-sets win over Victoria Azarenka sees Australia and Belarus locked at 1-1 going into the final day of their Fed Cup semifinal in Brisbane.
Ash Barty as levelled Australia’s Fed Cup semifinal against Belarus at 1-1 after a commanding performance against Victoria Azarenka.
Barty beat the former world No.1 and two-time Australian Open champion 7-6(2) 6-3 after Aryna Sabalenka earlier scored an epic win over Sam Stosur.
It was Barty’s first victory over Azarenka; the Belarusian beat Barty in straight sets in their one and only previous meeting in Tokyo last year.
The victory brought Azarenka’s 13-match Fed Cup winning streak – dating back to 2010 – to an end while simultaneously extending Barty’s unbeaten record in the competition to 12 straight.
“I think conditions are a bit different; a little bit slower than it is in Tokyo and overall I just think I’m more used to the way she plays and the way she goes about things,” Barty said of Azarenka.
“She loves to hold baseline, try and take control of the court. So it was a challenge for me today to try and wrestle that control a little bit.
“There were some real quality points in there – I knew it was going to be close either way and I just had to try and keep my nose in front. ”
All class from Ash Barty 👏
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) April 20, 2019
Much like the first match of the day at Pat Rafter Arena, this was a match dominated by the receiver.
Barty and Azarenka traded breaks in four straight games before settling into a rhythm on serve, and the opening set progressed to a tiebreak.
Yet although Azarenka scored an early mini-break, Barty jolted back into action, reeling off seven straight points to take the first set.
Azarenka never seemed to recover from that blow.
Barty scored a break in the third game and although she dropped serve in the following game, the Australian broke again and did not relinquish her advantage.
Although Barty is credited with playing with exceptional variety, it was her weight and pace of shot which seemed to trouble Azarenka more.
In baseline exchanges, Barty was typically the more consistent and prevented Azarenka from controlling points up on the baseline by forcing the Belarusian back with heavy topspin – especially off her forehand wing.
Nevertheless, Azarenka never stopped fighting, and held in the eighth game to force the world No.9 to serve for the match.
What followed was arguably the best game of the match, showcasing both players’ immense talents.
Barty appeared to have Azarenka beaten with a forehand lob, only for Azarenka to respond with a winning backhand smash that drew a smile and a thumbs-up from the Aussie across the net.
Yet a few points later, Barty played the same shot – and nailed it.
Level up!@ashbar96 tops Azarenka 76(2) 63.
— Fed Cup (@FedCup) April 20, 2019
She wrapped up victory shortly thereafter, completing the task in one hour and 37 minutes on her third match point.
It is expected that she will play Sabalenka on Sunday in the first of the reverse singles.
“I think its a double-edged sword (being more rested than Sabalenka). Aryna’s very familiar with the conditions – she got a lot of court time but obviosuly physically that can take it’s toll,” Barty said.
“Vika and I (had) a pretty physical match as well. Aryna has played enough matches to know how to recover and how to prepare well for the next match, and I’m sure that won’t be an issue.
“(Today) was phenomenal. All of us noticed a massive change in the atmosphere to previous home ties. I think the crowd that was in there today was exceptional, and instantly we all found a different buzz and energy from the crowd.
“It made a difference for sure.”