Australia’s Ashleigh Barty is within reach of the world number one ranking this week at Edgbaston. (Reuters/Action Images: Carl Recine)
Ashleigh Barty requires three more victories to become the first Australian woman to top the world rankings in more than 40 years.
- Barty will face five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in the last eight at Edgbaston after her win over another American, Jennifer Brady
- She started the week 252 points behind world number one Naomi Osaka of Japan, who lost in the round of 16
- The last Australian male to hold the world number one rankings in singles was Lleyton Hewitt in 2003
The newly-crowned French Open champion will head to Wimbledon as the provisional top seed if she reaches the final of the Birmingham Classic following Naomi Osaka’s shock loss to Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.
Osaka, who this week admitted she was struggling to adapt to grass, surrendered 6-2, 6-3 to the world number 43.
Barty, who reached the decider 12 months ago, booked her quarter-final place at Edgbaston with a routine 6-3, 6-1 win over American Jennifer Brady and now faces five-time All England champion Venus Williams on Friday for a place in the last four.
Should Barty reach the top spot, she would emulate her idol Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, who was the last Aussie to reach the summit of women’s tennis 43 years ago.
Goolagong-Cawley took over from American great Chris Evert on April 26, 1976, and held the ranking for two weeks before Evert grabbed the top spot back.
Barty dispatched world number 66 Brady in just under an hour to chalk up her ninth successive win and maintain her brilliant form ahead of Wimbledon, which begins on July 1.
“I feel like I’m playing some great tennis,” Barty said.
“I think the work that we have been doing over the last 12 to 18 months in particular, but over the last three years, is kind of all coming together.
“The stars have aligned a little bit for me, and I think when you get those opportunities you have to do your best to take them with both hands.
“I feel like I’m comfortable in my own skin. I feel like I know exactly how I want to play in most matches, and it’s just about going out there trying to execute as best I can.”
Williams, 39, eased past Chinese sixth seed Qiang Wang, who is 12 years her junior, 6-3, 6-2 and will meet Barty for the second time in her long career.
The Australian won in three sets when the pair last played at the WTA Cincinnati in 2017.
“She’s playing well on the grass,” Williams said.
WTA tweet: .@Venuseswilliams advances to the #NatureValleyClassic final! The wildcard defeats Wang Qiang 6-3, 6-2.
“It’s not easy to get to these quarter-finals. No match is easy.
“I’ll have to have a feel for it tomorrow and see what works.”
Elsewhere in the second round, Barty’s doubles partner for the week, eighth-seeded German Julia Goerges, beat Evgeniya Rodina in straight sets.