Sat, Jan 12, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Barty, Seppi storm into Sydney finals

FAVORITES FALL:The Australian has defeated the first, seventh and 10th seeds in the women’s draw, while the Italian has upset the first and third seeds on the men’s side

AFP, SYDNEY

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty yesterday claimed another top 10 scalp to power into the Sydney International final, while veteran Andreas Seppi upset third seed Diego Schwartzman to reach the men’s decider.

Barty, 22, is on a hot run, stretching her unbeaten streak to seven matches dating back to her career’s biggest title at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, China.

She is one of the form players heading into the Australian Open next week, but had to dig deep to scramble past world No. 9 and seventh seed Kiki Bertens 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 7-5.

Her reward is a clash with either 2015 champion Petra Kvitova or Belarussian qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

“It’s amazing. It really has been a phenomenal week of tennis,” said No. 15 Barty, who also made the final last year. “I feel like I’ve played great all week and have had tough opponents every single round, and I’m really excited to have another shot at the title.”

Barty had already accounted for world No. 1 Simona Halep and former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko before beating 10th seeded Belgian Elise Mertens in the quarter-finals.

She came into the match with the advantage of having twice beaten Dutch star Bertens previously, including in August last year in Montreal.

In the other semi-final later yesterday evening, world No. 8 Kvitova was to face Sasnovich, who knocked her out of Wimbledon in the opening round last year.

The Belarussian might be a qualifier in Sydney, but has previously reached two WTA finals, including in Brisbane last year, and has five top 10 career wins.

Seppi edged past Schwartzman 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 one day after derailing the hopes of top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, proving he still has what it takes at age 34.

The Italian, seeded eighth, had made three previous semi-finals in Sydney — the first way back in 2006.

However, he had never gone further and was delighted to get a crack at another ATP title to add to three he already owns.

“It was never easy, he is a great fighter and makes you play a lot of balls and you have to run a lot,” Seppi said of Schwartzman. “But I played a good match today and was happy to close it out.”

“I’m trying to keep working hard and I always play well in Australia. My last final was in 2015, so excited to be on another one,” he added.

Australia has been a happy hunting ground for Seppi.

As well as his deep runs in Sydney, he has a trio of round-of-16 appearances at the Australian Open, were he pulled off upsets against Marin Cilic in 2013, Roger Federer in 2015 and Nick Kyrgios in 2017.

In the final, he is to play either exciting young Australian Alex de Minaur or veteran French star Gilles Simon, who were scheduled to play later yesterday evening.

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