World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty registered a convincing 7-5, 6-4 win over Iga Swiatek in the third round of the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open on Tuesday. Barty will now take on three-time Madrid champion Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
The Aussie spoke extensively about Swiatek during her post-match press conference. She praised the Pole's "exceptional" and "impressive" game, and stressed that she loves facing challenges in the form of quality players like Swiatek.
"I really enjoyed myself out there tonight," Ashleigh Barty said. "I enjoyed the challenge. Iga's game is exceptional. It's really, really impressive. I love testing myself and trying to figure out the puzzle tonight and the challenges that she created for me."
Barty continued to wax eloquent about Swiatek, branding the Pole's playing style as 'fearless'.
"I love the way that she plays," Barty said. "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."
Ashleigh Barty then explained how she and Iga Swiatek both needed time to figure out each other’s game, given that the two were facing each other for the first time. Barty admitted that she particularly needed time to adjust to Swiatek's topspin-heavy groundstrokes.
"I think the first hour of the match was a learning period for both of us," Barty added. "I needed some time to get used to the weight of Iga's ball. Obviously we had a game plan before the match, but I had to adjust and learn on the progress."
The World No. 1 trailed 0-3 in the first set but quickly shifted gears to win seven of the next nine games and take a stranglehold on the match. Barty talked about the turnaround during her presser, asserting that once she got the hang of her opponent's style, she knew what had to be done.
"It took me some time to figure out exactly what I wanted to do on the court," Barty continued. "Once I knew it, everything became clear enough and I was able to control the game as I would have liked."
"I love taking on Petra Kvitova" - Ashleigh Barty
Ashleigh Barty and Petra Kvitova have faced each other nine times on tour, with the Australian trailing 4-5 in the head-to-head. During her presser, Barty mentioned that she loves facing the Czech because the latter manages to bring out the best in her.
The Aussie also joked about how often she faces Kvitova; the two met each other as many as five times in 2019 alone.
"I love taking on Petra," Ashleigh Barty said. "She always brings out the best in me. It's another challenge, another test. She's won this tournament multiple times, loves the conditions here. I told Tyz (Craig Tyzzer, her coach) that I'm going to start counting the times we've faced each other in Roman numerals (laughs)."