Barty fights through to Madrid Open quarter-finals

Madrid: Australian No.1 Ashleigh Barty has extended her hot streak to 11 straight wins to reach her fourth quarter-final of the year after beating Yulia Putintseva in the Madrid Open.

The Miami Open champion continued her fine form by fighting back from a set down to overcome her Kazakhstani opponent 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Barty's win sets up a showdown with French Open champion Simona Halep for what will be her maiden premier clay quarter-final appearance.

Victory over the Romanian former world No.1 would represent another huge scalp on what the Queenslander admits is not her favourite surface less than a month before the French Open gets underway.

Admitting she will be up against it against Halep, Barty said: "It's the absolute test, to play against the best.

"I think without a doubt she's the best, most consistent clay courter out there.

"We had a quality practice session earlier this week. It was nice, first time we've hit together, and it was a really good level."

Barty will rise to at least No.8 in the world rankings this week, but could climb to as high as fourth if she continues her run in Madrid.

Barty's overall record this season is now 23-3, losing just once since her maiden grand slam last-eight run at the Australian Open in January.

Halep earlier defeated Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia 6-0, 6-0, taking just 44 minutes to advance despite the appearance of rain and the court's roof having to be closed.

"[The roof] was good for me because the game was faster and I could play my best style. I think everything went very well for me today. I felt the ball, every single shot," Halep said.

"I do not think it was her best match. Maybe she [Kuzmova] was nervous before the match a little bit.

"It is a big tournament and it is not easy to face the top players."

In the men's event, John Millman has bowed out after losing in straight sets to Italian 10th seed Fabio Fognini.

Australian No.3 Millman, who won his previous match against American Steve Johnson, was unable to maintain that momentum as he went down 6-2, 6-2 to world No.12 Fognini, who now plays Austria’s Dominic Thiem in round three.

Rafael Nadal reached the third round with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Nadal lost only four points on his serve in the first set and broke Auger-Aliassime three times in the second to close out the match.

The second-ranked Spaniard is trying to rebound from consecutive eliminations in the semi-finals of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, which marked his worst start to the clay-court season in four years.

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A five-time champion in Madrid, Nadal will next face American Frances Tiafoe, who defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Earlier, Stan Wawrinka defeated Guido Pella 6-3, 6-4 while Kei Nishikori got past Hugo Dellien 7-5, 7-5.

France’s 16th-seeded Gael Monfils managed to fight back against Marton Fucsovics of Hungary to advance to the last-16 round where he is set to play Roger Federer.

The Frenchman, who won his eighth career title at the 2019 Rotterdam Open, needed almost two hours to edge a 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Fucsovics.

It was the first time for both players to face off against each other.

Monfils, world No.18, is now set to square off against third-ranked Federer in the round of 16, who he will be playing for the first time since the 2015 French Open, when the Swiss great was victorious.

Juan Martin Del Potro squandered a match point in a 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 loss to Laslo Djere in his second tournament since injuring his knee in October.

Del Potro converted only two of his 11 break opportunities, failing to capitalise on the match point at 5-4 in the final set. The Argentine had last played in Delray Beach in February, losing in the quarter-finals.

AAP, AP

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