Barty, Tsitsipas advance in Miami as injured Halep pulls out

Miami (AFP) –


World number one Ashleigh Barty looked sharp in a straight-sets victory over Jelena Ostapenko Saturday at the Miami Open, where men's second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas cruised past lucky loser Damir Dzumhur.

Defending champion Barty was denied in five set-point chances in the final game of the opening set before claiming it on a service winner after 37 minutes.

Former French Open champion Ostapenko, now ranked 54th in the world, broke Barty for a 2-0 lead to start the second set.

But 2019 Roland Garros champion Barty won the next six games for a victory that looked more impressive than her three-set battle to subdue Kristina Kucova in her opening match.

"Today felt like I was a lot sharper and switched-on and ready to go from the very first point," Australia's Barty said.

"That was the goal today, to try to bring the tennis back to my kind of tempo and my kind of rhythm as often as possible and as quickly as possible in points.

"She obviously has the ability to take that away from you quite quickly, particularly off serve and first shot and off her returns," Barty said.

Next up for Barty will be 14th seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who beat 24th seed Angelique Kerber of Germany 7-5, 6-2 in a battle of former world number ones.

Azarenka, who was playing her first match after a first-round bye and a walkover, took a while to warm up.

But after trailing 4-1, she put the first set back on serve with a break in the seventh game and dominated from there, posting her ninth win in 10 meetings with Kerber.

While Barty cruised into the round of 16, the women's draw lost world number three Simona Halep of Romania, who withdrew from her scheduled match with Latvian Anastasija Sevastova with a right shoulder injury.

"I'm very sorry I have to pull out of singles and doubles at the Miami Open, but my injury doesn't let me play here as expected," Halep said in a statement.

The two-time Grand Slam winner had said the shoulder was giving her trouble even before her three-set victory over France's Caroline Garcia in her second-round opener.

Sevastova received a walkover into the fourth round, where she will face 338th-ranked Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who upset 15th-seeded Polish teen Iga Swiatek, the reigning French Open champion, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.

Greece's Tsitsipas -- ranked fifth in the world but seeded second behind world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev in the Masters 1000 event that is missing top-ranked Novak Djokovic, world number three Rafael Nadal and No. 4 Dominic Thiem as well as Roger Federer and Andy Murray -- had little trouble in a 6-1, 6-4 over Bosnian lucky loser Damir Dzumhur.

Tsitsipas, coming off a runner-up finish at Acapulco last week, hit 10 of his 18 winners off his forehand and committed only nine unforced errors as he relentlessly pressured his opponent.

"There isn't much I can tell you, it was a great match," Tsitsipas said. "I started the match very strong, breaking him twice and taking a big lead in the score, and I think the things worked out by themself after that.

"I created lot of opportunities with my serve, finding the right angles and executing it perfectly. Even with my second serve I felt like I did a lot of damage, not giving him a chance to press first and apply pressure with his shots."

The three-time Grand Slam semi-finalist next faces Japanese 28th seed Kei Nishikori, who outlasted Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene 7-6 (8/6), 5-7, 6-4.

"He's a player that has played very well in the past, and even now he can raise his level really high," Tsitsipas said of Nishikori, a former world number four who spent most of the pandemic-disrupted 2020 season recovering from elbow surgery.