‘She plays without fear,’ says Ashleigh Barty on the puzzle of playing Iga Swiatek

Ashleigh Barty has reached the Madrid quarter-finals but she had to overcome an ‘exceptional’ Iga Swiatek to do it.

It was the first competitive encounter between the two, which had created a lot of interest with both players being the last two winners of the French Open.

After winning her maiden Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2019, Barty chose not to defend the title in 2020 due to coronavirus safety concerns.

That left the door open for surprise winner Swiatek who became the lowest-ranked French Open champion in the history of the WTA rankings.

Barty came into the match on the back of 13-match winning streak on clay dating back to her 2019 French Open victory while Swiatek had won 18 consecutive sets on the surface.

But the world number one proved too strong on the day, winning 7-5, 6-4 but after the match, she was full of praise for her 19-year-old opponent.

“I really enjoyed myself out there tonight. I enjoyed the challenge. Iga’s game is exceptional. It’s really, really impressive,’ said Barty.

“I love testing myself and trying to figure out the puzzle tonight and the challenges that she created for me.

“I love the way that she plays. I love the way she takes the game on. She plays without fear.

“I think the way she controls the court, has the ability to move and neutralize from defensive position is very, very impressive.”

Barty will now face Petra Kvitova, a three-time Madrid champion, and she says she is looking forward to the challenge.

“I love to play Petra. I do. She brings out the best in me… It’s another challenge, another test.

“She’s won this tournament multiple times, loves the conditions here. A fresh challenge for me.

“We go into it like any other match, try and execute as best we can, whoever does that better on the day will come out on top.”

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