Friday’s Set Points, Cincinnati 2019: Barty vs. Kuznetsova, Keys vs. Kenin set for the semi-finals

Friday was quarter-finals day at the Western & Southern Open in Cincy. Following on from Toronto, the trend of close matches has continued with eight of the last 12 matches in Cincy going the distance. The final four features the number one seed, a resurgent Kuznetsova and two Americans bidding for a first Cincy final. Read on for reviews of all four quarter-finals on day 5 of main draw action in Cincy.

Match reviews 🎾

Ash Barty d. Maria Sakkari, 5-7 6-2 6-0 (QF)

Winning her 42nd (!) match of the year, Ash Barty advanced to the semi-finals in Cincy (h/t Tennis Abstract). Barty let slip a 5-2 lead in the first set but rebounded to ease through the final two sets. Barty’s ability to reset after disappointment is one of her most impressive qualities. It’s not the first time she has managed to do it (vs. Anisimova at the French springs to mind). Barty served exceptionally well through the second and third sets, dropping just four points (!) on serve. The Aussie rarely panics and always has clarity of mind to not overhit and construct the points so thoughtfully.

A great week for Sakkari who didn’t let the missed match points against Alison Riske in Toronto linger for long. Wins over Camila Giorgi, Petra Kvitova and Maria Sakkari will confirm her seeding for the US Open.

Svetlana Kuznetsova d. Karolina Pliskova, 3-6 7-6(2) 6-3 (QF)

Man Sveta is on a roll! Svetlana Kuznetsova produced another comeback win, this the best of the lot, as she scored her third top 15 win of the week. Pliskova had played a great match for a set and three quarters. The Czech player was aggressive and clutch on break points, saving all four faced in the second set with first serves in play. It all began to fall apart when Pliskova served for the match at 6-3 *5-4 as errors crept into her game and she seemed to run out of energy in the heat.

Kuznetsova made a slow start to the match but played better and better as the match wore on and pounced when the opportunity arose.  Despite having treatment for what looked like a hip complaint (?), she managed to hold onto service break throughout the third set and then broke for the victory. After all the visa drama, Kuznetsova is looking in fantastic shape. Always a treat for the tour to have Sveta in form.

Sofia Kenin d. Naomi Osaka, 6-4 1-6 2-0 ret.

Sofia Kenin made it back-to-back semi-finals in Toronto and Cincy, but it was not the way she would have wanted to win it as Naomi Osaka was forced to retire early in the second set. Osaka felt pain in her knee and stopped play mid-game to have a medical time-out. The world number one tried to continue but retired a few points later. It was a real shame because it had been a very intriguing match up until then.

Osaka won 100% of points behind her first serve in the first set but Kenin still bagged the only break of the set and served it out with a brilliantly bold service game. Osaka came back in style in the second set. I think it would have been a fascinating decider as Kenin had clearly reset after losing the second set.

Kenin is such a good all-rounder and does everything well. I had her down as a counter-puncher last year but she’s become increasingly aggressive (and successful!) in 2019. I’d already decided in my head that she’d be in my top 10 for my 2020 predictions but at this rate, she’s going to do this year!

Madison Keys d. Venus Williams, 6-2 6-3

With wins over Garbiñe Muguruza, Daria Kasatkina, Simona Halep and now Venus Williams, Madison Keys is having a super week in Cincy. I thought this quarter-final was a scrappy match and the stats were kind to Keys in her unforced error count! Still, it was a decent performance from the 24-year-old and she’s come a long way just from her first match of the week against Muguruza where she looked completely out-of-sorts in the first set.

The difference between the pair in the first set was the serve. Keys landed a higher percentage of first serves in and dropped just one point behind it. I thought was Keys struggling to return Venus’s no-pace second serve early on but Venus threw in back-to-back double faults to gift the first break of the match.

The second set was much closer as seven of the nine games went to deuce. Keys, who was hitting her backhand sweetly, finally converted an opportunity leading 5-3 and then served out in style to love. Both players came into Cincy without any wins on the hard courts post-Wimbledon. It’s amazing how fortunes can change so quickly in tennis…

Hot shot of the day 🔥

Great get and passing shot winner from Keys.

Handshakes and hugs 🤗

A nice exchange between Barty and Sakkari. You could hear Maria wish Ash good luck for the rest of the tournament 😊.

Favourite snap 📸

Love this picture of Kenin posted by the Cincy Twitter account.

Press highlights 📰

Osaka sounded concerned in her press conference about the knee injury. Hopefully all will be OK for the US Open 🤞.

Recommended listening 🎧

Enjoyed the latest edition of the Body Serve podcast which featured Monica Puig’s coach, Kamau Murray, and Cincy semi-finalist, Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Tomorrow’s OOP ⭐

Saturday’s semi-finals will see Ash Barty take on Svetlana Kuznetsova (11am local time/4pm UK time), followed Madison Keys against Sofia Kenin (not before 3pm local time/8pm UK time). Previews of both matches up on the separate page here.

Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Feature photo by Omar Boraby Photography.

7 thoughts on “Friday’s Set Points, Cincinnati 2019: Barty vs. Kuznetsova, Keys vs. Kenin set for the semi-finals

  1. I only managed to watch bits of the second half of the Pliskova/Kuznetsova match. It looked like Karolina was really struggling with how physical Sveta made it. She seemed to be struggling to catch her breath quite a bit. Shame for her, because it was a rolls royce performance in the first set. Always happy to see Sveta win! Hopefully she isn’t completely gassed today and gives Barty a stern test.

    Really happy to see Kenin notch another huge win. From the highlights, it seemed like she stayed really positive even when losing the second set. It seems to take an awful lot to break her spirit, which is such an asset for her!

    Would love a Barty v Kenin match in the final.


    • I thought Pliskova looked uncomfortable in the conditions all week which doesn’t bode well for the US Open. I think she’s hitting the ball well enough to get some quick wins in the early rounds (provided she doesn’t draw Kuznetsova!) but will surely struggle against players like Kenin who will just outlast her.


      • It’s sort of a so close but yet so far situation with Pliskova. She’s made such huge improvements in ALL areas of her game since she came on tour, but it has yet to really come together in a big tournament!


  2. Great win by Sveta yesterday. Someone said on Tennis Forum today that Sveta learnt her game playing against people like Justine Henin (whom Ash somewhat resembles), so she was less fazed by Ash’s play than any of the players Ash has beaten in her way to the semi.

    Slight preference for Madi to win in the other semi but I’ll be happy whichever of them wins. With Sveta looking something like her best again it should be a good final tomorrow.


    • Ash plays more like Sveta than Henin, I would say. The big difference being that Kuznetsova is more confident with her two handed backhand, and therefore uses the slice less. I don’t like comments that Barty lost the match. Sveta won it. She served exceptionally, and she put SO much pressure on Ash’s serve. She moved as well as I have ever seen her move, and took every opportunity to step in. It was a gold star performance! Just a shame we don’t see it consistently. I don’t think there has ever been a player with more raw talent or skill as Kuznetsova…


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