Australian tennis star Ash Barty must beat a third straight player from the world’s top 12 in order to reach her second successive Sydney International final.
Barty and fellow Australian youngster Alex De Minaur both remain on track to repeat their feats in reaching last year’s women’s and men’s finals respectively in Sydney, heading into the tournament’s penultimate day.
Barty will face world No.9 Kiki Bertens on Friday afternoon for a spot in the decider, after having already beaten top-ranked Simona Halep and No.12 Elise Mertens in straight sets.
She also comes into the match with the advantage of having twice beaten Bertens previously, including as recently as last August in Montreal.
“She plays really tricky. I think in Montreal I didn’t play my best, so I’m really excited to play a good match,” Bertens said.
“She uses the slice a lot, gets you out of the rhythm. You play to the forehand and then you get the heavy shot. I feel like she can do a lot with the ball.
“You just really have to play good, try to play aggressive but not too much. So try to stay in the rallies. That’s what I have to do tomorrow.”
If Barty is to progress, she at least won’t have to face the woman who beat her in last year’s final again, after defending champion Angelique Kerber was beaten in straight sets by Petra Kvitova on Thursday night.
Kvitova will face Aliaksandra Sasnovich in her semifinal, the same woman who knocked her out of Wimbledon in the opening round last year.
Meanwhile, De Minaur has Gilles Simon standing between him and the decider, with the pair set to face off in their semifinal on Friday night.
Simon won through a tough three-set match with Australian John Millman, only prevailing 7-5 3-6 7-6(3) after the Aussie served for the match in the final set.
De Minaur is keen to produce a more consistent performance, after he admitted he fell out of the match slightly at the end of his first set in his win over countryman Jordan Thompson on Thursday.
“I feel like I had a little bit of a lapse in concentration,” the top-ranked Australian man said.
“I deviated a bit of my game plan, and I think energy-wise I had a little drop. I wasn’t as energetic as I had been the whole set.
“That’s something that I’ve got to look back on and improve. That’s one of the things that can’t happen. Next time I’ll make sure to keep my level throughout the whole match.”
Meanwhile, Argentinian Diego Schwartzman will face Italian Andreas Seppi in the other men’s semi-final on Friday.