Barty into semis as Australian Open warm-ups resume

Melbourne (AFP) –


World number one Ashleigh Barty moved closer to a semi-final showdown with Serena Williams after a tough win over Shelby Rogers, as Australian Open warm-up tournaments resumed in Melbourne Friday after the latest Covid scare.

The Australian has yet to rediscover her best after a long layoff but prevailed 7-5, 2-6, 10-4 in 92 minutes in the quarter-finals of the Yarra Valley Classic.

"I thought I did well to hang in there," she said. "There were some challenges but happy to click into gear and find a way."

Six build-up tournaments for next week's Australian Open returned to action after a coronavirus case at a designated tournament hotel halted play Thursday and forced hundreds of players and officials into isolation.

Storms forecast for Friday threatened to increase the backlog, but to ease the congestion WTA clashes were reduced to two sets and a 10-point super tiebreaker instead of the traditional three sets.

The 24-year-old Barty, competing in her first tournament in 11 months, appeared fresh after Thursday's unexpected stoppage having played two singles matches within 20 hours earlier in the week.

Barty, playing with the roof shut on Margaret Court Arena, cruised to an early 4-1 lead before being made to work by the world number 60.

She claimed the pivotal break in the 12th game but her serve went awry in the second set and the American pounced to break twice.

Barty, however, overcame the stutter with a ruthless performance in the super tiebreaker.

Barty, hoping to break her country's 43-year singles title drought at the Australian Open, is on course for a blockbuster contest with 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams, who will be in action later Friday against fellow American Danielle Collins.

Friday's star-studded field includes Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and a rematch of last year's Australian Open final between Sofia Kenin and Garbine Muguruza.