Top seed Ashleigh Barty brushed aside Maria Sharapova in straight sets in her Cincinnati WTA opener on Wednesday, while Simona Halep also reached the third round.
Australia’s Barty, 23, won the battle of former World No. 1s in just over 90 minutes. The reigning Roland Garros champion beat five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova, who was champion here in 2011, for the second time this season after the Australian Open.
It was Barty’s 40th victory of 2019 and she goes on to face Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, who beat Polish teenager Iga Swiatek 6-4, 7-6(2). “I did a really good job, especially in winning some of the crucial games,” the Australian said.
Barty recovered after going down an early break to claim the opening set, before breaking Sharapova twice in the second to secure victory.
Barty fired 18 winners, breaking Sharapova four times as the Russian made 31 unforced errors.
Halep fights back
Wimbledon champion Halep, seeded fourth, earned a late break in the penultimate game of the final set to beat Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 after two hours.
The Romanian has finished runner-up in Cincinnati thrice, last reaching the final a year ago against Kiki Bertens.
“It was a very, very tough match,” Halep said. “She played well, hitting the ball very strong.”
Halep went up a break in the third set, before letting the lead slip, only for the 43rd-ranked Alexandrova to serve two straight double-faults and fall 5-4 behind.
Halep completed her fightback on a second match-point a game later.
World No. 3 Karolina Pliskova beat China’s Wang Yafan 6-1, 6-3, while seventh seed Elina Svitolina, a semifinalist four years ago, advanced past Belgian Elise Mertens 6-4, 6-1.
In the men’s draw, fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas saved three match-points but still lost to Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(6).
Kei Nishikori lost to fellow Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka 7-6(2), 6-4. Sixth seed Nishikori has still never advanced beyond the third round here.