BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – World No. 1 Ash Barty suffered a surprise 6-4, 7-6 (4-7) defeat on Thursday to American qualifier Jennifer Brady, who claimed the first top-10 win of her career to advance to the Brisbane International quarterfinals.
With the tournament moving into the Pat Rafter Arena at the Queensland Tennis Centre following the end of the ATP Cup group stage, Brady had to contend with not only the Australian top seed, who was given a bye to the last 16, but also a vociferous home crowd.
Barty, who had never dropped a set to Brady in two encounters last year, was unable to muster a single break point while the American needed only one break of serve in the opening set before sealing the result in the second set tiebreak.
“I’m very happy to get the win,” Brady said. “Ash is obviously a great player and a great person.
“It’s a little bit surreal. I’m super stoked and I’m shaking a little bit, but I really played well today.”
Barty, who exited the tournament in the first round in 2018, struck more winners than Brady but 16 unforced errors opened the door for her American opponent who wrapped up the match in 91 minutes.
Despite losing her season opener, Barty remains upbeat about her Australian Open preparations and said she does not feel any extra pressure because of her top ranking.
“It doesn’t change the way that I practise. It doesn’t change me as a person,” she told reporters.
“I think that you guys (journalists) enjoy the fact that you get something to write about and you have something to talk about.
“So hopefully I make it interesting for you, but I don’t look at it beyond that.”
Brady, who beat Maria Sharapova in the first round after coming through three qualifiers, will next face fifth seed Petra Kvitova.
Last year’s Australian Open finalist Kvitova raced past Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova 6-3 6-2 in 61 minutes.
Second seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova had to work hard to avoid the same fate as Barty, as she overcame a mid-match blip to secure a 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1 win over Ajla Tomljanovic.
Third seed Naomi Osaka also had a difficult outing as she came back from a set down to beat American Sofia Kenin 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-1, advancing to the tournament’s quarterfinals for the second straight year.
The world fired 18 aces against Kenin’s three to seal the match in 2 hours, 20 minutes.
While she made several forehand errors in the first set, Osaka managed to pull herself together to win her second-round match of the hard-court tournament.
“I heard a lot of people cheering for me, so I wanted to go down fighting,” Osaka said.
“It’s really weird. In Australia, everyone is really nice to me. … Ever since I was young, people would watch my matches and everyone’s super nice.”
In the quarterfinals, she will face either Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands or Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.
Osaka is competing in her first tournament since she announced Belgian Wim Fissette as her new coach in December.
Elsewhere, top-seeded Serena Williams had her toughest workout of 2020 before beating fellow American Christina McHale 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals of the ASB Classic.
Williams dropped a set for the first time in singles or doubles this year and at times Thursday appeared to be fully stretched by the 88th-ranked McHale before finding the edge to win in just over two hours in Auckland.
“It was a good match for me,” Williams said. “I really need to play matches like that to get to my goal. Match time is good, but I’m just glad to still be out here after losing that first set.”
Williams previously beat Camila Giorgi 6-3, 6-2 in singles and combined with Caroline Wozniacki in the doubles to beat Nao Hibino and Mikoto Ninomiya 6-2, 6-4 and then Caroline Dolehide and Johanna Larsson 6-2, 6-1 to reach the semifinals.
She was under pressure early against McHale, who had two service breaks to lead 4-1 in the first set before Williams broke back. McHale broke again to take the set 6-3 but Williams began the second set strongly, leading 5-1 before leveling the match.
If Williams thought the struggle was over, she was mistaken. She broke twice to lead 5-2 in the third set but McHale broke back in the eighth game.
Williams finally managed to overpower McHale, converting the second of three break points in the final game.
Wozniacki also dropped a set to an American opponent before booking a quarterfinal match against defending champion Julia Goerges.
The former No. 1 beat Lauren Davis 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in a marathon match between players with similar styles. Even in a one-sided first set rallies were long and the final game lasted more than 10 minutes and contained eight deuces.
Davis broke Wozniacki twice in the second set and was up a break in the third but Wozniacki fought back to snatch the win.
“There were frustrating times on court when I thought I was doing everything right and she was just playing better,” Wozniacki said. “I just kept digging in there and I got a little lucky.”
American teenager Coco Gauff was beaten 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 by Germany’s Laura Siegemund.
Neither player was able to take control of the match early on; the first set contained 48 unforced errors and Gauff achieved the only service break in the 12th game.
Siegemund played with more consistency in the second set, breaking Gauff at love to lead 4-1 and holding serve to level the match. She gained an early service break to lead 2-1 in the second set and held out Gauff’s attempted comeback.
Gauff played too often to the German player’s strong backhand and made too many mistakes, double-faulting to give Siegemund her first match point.
“That’s the biggest thing that the conversation with my dad (Corey) was after the match,” Gauff said. “I’m still learning and that’s the problem that I have. He said I didn’t play like I played in practice.
“I didn’t play the right way and if I lost playing the right way it would have been fine, but I don’t think I was playing the right way.”