MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Top-ranked Ash Barty reached the Adelaide International semifinals with a 6-3, 6-4 win over 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin on Friday and Rafael Nadal advanced in Melbourne via a walkover in tune-up tournaments ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam event.
Barty used her usual backhand slice and powerful forehand drive but also hit 17 aces and won 31 of 32 points on her first serve to advance. Barty lost to Kenin in the Australian Open semifinals at Melbourne Park two years ago.
“I was able to look after my service games pretty well and it was a lot of fun playing out here again and to get a little bit more court time and to start to play a little bit better,” Barty said.
On Wednesday, Barty beat Coco Gauff in three sets in her season opener after almost four months since her last competitive outing.
“That’s what you want. It’s nice to come out here right from the start and know that you have to bring your very best level,” the 2021 Wimbledon champion said. “Obviously looking at these last two matches, there’s still work to do.”
Barty will meet defending champion Iga Swiatek in the semifinals. The 2020 French Open champion beat two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 2-6, 6-1.
Earlier, seventh-seeded Elena Rybakina beat Shelby Rogers 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the semifinals.
Nadal, a 20-time Grand Slam singles champion, advanced without taking the court when Dutch opponent Tallon Griekspoor withdrew. It was only one day after Nadal played and won his first competitive match in five months, beating Ricardas Berankis in straight sets.
Nadal will play unseeded Emil Ruusuvuori on Saturday for a place in the final. Ruusuvuori beat Alex Molcan 6-2, 6-1.
In other men’s play Friday, Marin Cilic and top-seeded Gael Monfils won in the Adelaide International quarterfinals. Cilic beat Laslo Djere 6-3, 6-2 and Monfils defeated sixth-seeded Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-1.
Top-seeded Naomi Osaka and second-seeded Simona Halep advanced to the semifinals of the Summer Set 1 tune-up event in Melbourne. Osaka beat Andre Petkovic 6-1, 7-5 while Halep defeated Viktorija Golubic 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.
Despite the win, Halep was her usual critical self.
“Nothing was working today,” Halep said in her on-court interview. “I fought with myself a lot and found it difficult to control my emotions, but she put me in this situation and put pressure on me. But if you want to win, you don’t give up.”