Ashleigh Barty lost the WTA throne after an early exit in Toronto last week, hoping for a much better run in Cincinnati where she toppled Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 27 minutes. It was their second match of the season and the second win for the Aussie who didn’t have to work as hard as in Melbourne in January, fending off six out of seven chances and delivering four breaks for the spot in the third round.
Ashleigh tamed her shots more efficiently, taking advantage of almost 30 unforced errors from the Russian and having the upper hand in the decisive moments to bring the encounter home and move into the last 16 where she will face Iga Swiatek or Anett Kontaveit.
Maria fended off two break points in the second game and forged a 2-1 lead when Barty hit a double fault in the next game, maintaining a solid level until game six when Barty broke back after a forehand error from her rival to level the score at 3-3.
Three good service games later, Sharapova served to stay in the set and hit a loose backhand to give serve away and hand the opener to the Aussie after 45 minutes. Ashleigh claimed the opening game of the second set with a hold at love, stealing Maria’s serve with a forehand crosscourt winner in the next game and repelling four break chances in the marathon game three to jump into a 3-0 lead.
Returning at 4-1, Barty landed a perfect lob winner to secure another break, extending the lead and saving a break point in the next game when Sharapova netted a backhand and moving over the top with a service winner, hoping for more of the same against the next opponent on Thursday.