Stuttgart: Barty makes winning red clay return, Kvitova tops Sakkari

Stuttgart: Barty makes winning red clay return, Kvitova tops Sakkari

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty beat Germany’s Laura Siegemund in her first match on red clay since winning her first Grand Slam title at the 2019 French Open.

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty rallied from a break down at 2-1 in the second set to beat Germany’s Laura Siegemund, 6-0, 7-5, in her opening match at the WTA 500 event in Stuttgart on Wednesday.

While Barty was playing her first-ever match in Stuttgart, Siegemund has had a love affair going with the tournament. Siegemund not only captured the biggest title of her career at the event in 2017, but all three of her career Top 5 wins have come there, too (as well as six of her nine career Top 10 wins).

“She’s got the ability to maneuver the ball all around the court,” Barty said of Siegemund. “She’s got variety—she’s got multiple assets she can go to, and you could see that early in the second set. She adjusted how she was playing, took more risks and got more aggressive with her court positioning.

“It was obviously a challenging match. I felt like I had to find some really good stuff tonight.”

Though she did play on green clay in Charleston two weeks ago, reaching the quarterfinals, this is Barty’s first event on red clay since winning her first Grand Slam title at the 2019 French Open.

“It’s a natural progression. Each tournament, the clay gradually gets more and more similar to Roland Garros,” the Australian said. “Here in Stuttgart, it’s something I’ve never played on before. I’ve never played on indoor clay, it’s a bit different. It’s pretty quick here, and you get rewarded for serve and first strike, which is a little bit unusual on certain clay courts. Then, once you move through Madrid and Rome, it’s probably more and more similar each week to what the conditions in Paris are like.

“It’s certainly no stress or concern if I don’t feel 100% comfortable now. We look to keep building over the next month or so, and then once we hit the Parisian clay, we want to feel comfortable.”

Getty Images

The No. 1-seeded Barty now gets a day off before taking the court for her quarterfinal match against No. 6 seed Karolina Pliskova or Jelena Ostapenko, who play their second-round match on Thursday.

Wednesday’s final match saw No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova prevail in a two-hour, 28-minute battle against Maria Sakkari, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Kvitova may have finished the match with twice as many unforced errors as Sakkari, 48 to 24, but she also hit more than twice as many winners, 42 to 20.

“I knew that with Maria it’s always tough, especially on the clay. She loves to play on it, and she has a great game for it,” Kvitova said. “It was a really tough match today. I needed to play aggressive.”

Like Barty, Kvitova will also have a day in between her next contest. In the quarterfinals, the Czech awaits the winner of Thursday's match between No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina and two-time Stuttgart champion Angelique Kerber.