Ash Barty lost her chance to regain the number one world ranking after she was unexpectedly beaten in straight sets by Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters on Saturday, Reuters reports.
Top seed Barty, who would have replaced the injured Naomi Osaka as the world number one with a victory, struggled with the rhythm off her serve as she lost 6-2 6-4, losing eight consecutive games to the Russian at one point.
Kuznetsova, ranked world number 153, will play American Madison Keys for the title on Sunday.
Keys, the 16th seed, turned back compatriot Sofia Kenin 7-5 6-4 in their semi-final.
Winner of the U.S. Open in 2004 and the French Open in 2009, the 34-year-old Kuznetsova has struggled with injuries throughout her career but has now defeated eighth seeded Sloane Stephens, Czech third seed Karolina Pliskova and Barty in successive matches.
She entered the Cincinnati tournament as a wild card after winning two matches in Toronto.
Issues in obtaining a U.S. visa kept her from defending her Washington DC title.
Barty won the first two games, then lost the set as Kuznetsova, handling the Australian’s slices effectively and serving well, won the next six.
Barty at one point called a medical time-out to have her right ankle retaped.
But the streak continued in the second set, with Kuznetsova winning the opening two games before Barty held.
The Australian rallied to 4-3 and 5-4 before Kuznetsova served out the victory.
Novak Djokovic wore down Lucas Pouille after an even first set, dispatching the Frenchman 7-6(2) 6-1 in a Cincinnati Masters quarter-final in Ohio on Friday.
The match was much closer than when the pair met in the Australian Open semi-finals in January, when Djokovic conceded only four games before going on to win the title.
It took Djokovic nearly an hour to prevail in the first set but he closed out a one-sided tiebreak with a deft backhand passing shot.
The second was one-way traffic as the world number one played with relentless efficiency against an opponent who ran out of answers.
Perhaps the only concern for Djokovic with the U.S. Open looming in less than two weeks was a sore elbow which required brief treatment by his trainer late in the match.
He will have less than 24 hours to recover for a semi-final against Daniil Medvedev, who continued his recent hot form, ousting Russian compatriot Andrey Rublev 6-2 6-3 in barely an hour.
Medvedev, a career-high eighth in the rankings, faced only one break point.
He has made two finals in the past two weeks, losing to Nick Kyrgios in Washington and Rafa Nadal in Montreal.