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Sports Shorts: Sabalenka upsets Barty, sets up Riske final

September 28, 2019 10:52 IST

Aryna Sabalenka

IMAGE: Aryna Sabalenka registered her third win over Ash Barty in five encounters. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

Aryna Sabalenka moved one step closer to defending her Wuhan Open crown after dispatching world number one Ash Barty in straight sets with a 7-5, 6-4 victory in the semi-final on Friday.

 

Barty struggled to compete with a calf injury limiting her movement and service game. She made eight double faults and was broken three times in the one hour 43 minute contest to give Sabalenka her third win over the Australian in five encounters.

Top seed Barty was forced to call for a trainer for treatment on her calf but gave due credit to Sabalenka for what was the Belarusian's 11th straight victory in Wuhan.

"I'm sure (the injury) is nothing that is too alarming. I tried to do the best that I could to protect it in a way without letting it affect my tennis too much," Barty said.

"Overall, Aryna was the better player today. She was able to control her service games a lot better. I felt at times I was hanging on a little bit.

"I had to take a lot of risks today to try to manage where I was at. I was more in the match than I deserved to be."

Unseeded American Alison Riske beat two-times champion Petra Kvitova 7-5, 7-5 in the other semi-final to advance to her first Premier final.

Kvitova's poor service game saw her concede 15 break points, of which Riske converted four to win the match in straight sets despite a late fightback from the Czech who finished with 45 unforced errors.

"I always thought I was good, but I never really kind of embodied that," Riske said. "In the big moments, I wasn't really delivering.

"I feel like it's taken me a while. I had spurts of it. I'm 29, so it's about time I get something right here."

The final will be held on Saturday.

Verstappen fastest for Red Bull on first day of practice in Russia

Red Bull's Max Verstappen during practice.

IMAGE: Red Bull's Max Verstappen during practice. Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Max Verstappen knocked Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc off the top of the timesheets to go fastest on the opening day of practice for the Russian Formula One Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver was narrowly edged out by Leclerc, winner of two of the last three races, in Friday's opening 90 minutes of running.

But the Dutchman, also a two-time winner this year but carrying a five-place engine-related grid penalty, struck back with a one minute, 33.162-second lap after lunch, ending the day 0.335 seconds quicker than the Monegasque.

Valtteri Bottas was third ahead of championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

The Mercedes team mates moved ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, whose win in Singapore last week ended a 13-month drought for the four-time champion, with the German slipping from third to fifth.

But it was an uncharacteristically off-colour day for the dominant champions, with the silver cars hindered by niggling problems in the morning and a lack of pace that saw them end the day more than half a second off Verstappen's best.

Despite their lack of form, which some commentators suspected was down to sandbagging, a practice when teams deliberately run slower to hide their car's true potential, Hamilton and Mercedes remain on course for a record sixth title double.

The Briton, winner of eight races this year, leads Bottas by 65 points in the overall standings and is 96 clear of Verstappen and Leclerc, his closest non-Mercedes challengers who are joint third, with six races to go.

The German team, winners of 10 of this season's 15 races, lead Ferrari by 133 points in the constructors' standings.

Still they head into Sunday's Russian round, a race they have won every year since it joined the calendar in 2014, reeling from three successive defeats at the hands of rivals Ferrari.

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