ASH­LEIGH ON A HIGH

Makes sin­gles semi and dou­bles fi­nal with Casey

New Straits Times - - Sport - AJITPAL SINGH ajit­pals­ingh@nst.com.my

ASH­LEIGH Barty be­came only the third qual­i­fier to ever make the sin­gles semi-fi­nals in the his­tory of the Malaysian Open fol­low­ing a 6-0, 7-6 (7-2) win over China’s Zhang Kai Lin at TPC Kuala Lumpur yes­ter­day.

Tai­wan’s Hsieh Su Wei was the first qual­i­fier to make the semi­fi­nals in 2012 with China’s Zhu Lin em­u­lat­ing the Tai­wanese’s feat in 2016.

It was also a dou­ble cel­e­bra­tion for the World No 158 Ash­leigh when she and com­pa­triot Casey Del­lac­qua reached the dou­bles fi­nal.

In the sin­gles, the 21-year-old Ash­leigh broke three times for a first-set bagel against the 131stranked Kai Lin.

In the sec­ond set, Ash­leigh broke back in the 12th game and won in the tie-break to achieve her first ever tour sin­gles last four ap­pear­ance.

She then re­turned to court about 90 min­utes later to pair up with Casey for a rou­tine 6-3, 6-2 vic­tory over the Bel­gian and Turk­ish pair­ing of Elise Mertens and Ipek Soylu to make their first tour fi­nal since Birm­ing­ham in 2014.

Ash­leigh and Casey were run­ners-up at Wim­ble­don and the US Open in 2013.

Ash­leigh was de­lighted to make the sin­gles semi-fi­nals.

“I served well and got the early mo­men­tum in the first set. Kai Lin fought back in the sec­ond set and I had a poor game at 5-5.

“I moved on and played re­ally well af­ter I broke back in the 12th game. I am re­ally ex­cited and I feel I am not far away from get­ting bet­ter re­sults in tour­na­ments.”

Ash­leigh will play World No 139 Han Xinyun of China for a spot in the fi­nal today.

Han Xinyun turned on the heat in the third set to edge sixth seed and com­pa­triot Wang Qiang 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-4 in 137 min­utes for only her sec­ond semi-fi­nal ap­pear­ance af­ter Dalian last Septem­ber.

“Af­ter los­ing the first set, I changed my strat­egy and played ag­gres­sively as I re­alised that Wang Qiang was tired.

“I went 5-0 in the sec­ond set and won to force a de­cid­ing set.

“I was 0-40 down on her serve in the fi­nal game of the third set but I kept my com­po­sure to level and win in deuce,” said Han Xinyun.

The 26-year-old said she is ea­ger to take on Ash­leigh today.

“Ash­leigh is so tal­ented. She achieved good re­sults when she was young and she is play­ing well here. I am ex­cited to play her,” Han Xinyun added.

PIC BY LUQMAN HAKIM ZUBIR

Ash­leigh Barty re­turns a shot to Zhang Kai Lin in the quar­ter­fi­nals of the Malaysian Open at TPC in Bukit Kiara yes­ter­day.

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