Sofia Kenin in action during her WTA tournament second round match against Ashleigh Barty in Toronto. AFP
World number one Ashleigh Barty crashed out of the WTA tournament in Toronto on Tuesday, falling in three sets in her second-round opener to 29th-ranked American Sofia Kenin.
Australia’s Barty, the French Open champion who was competing for the first time since a fourth-round exit at Wimbledon, battled back from an early break to take the opening set, but she was unable to do the same in the next two sets as 20-year-old Kenin triumphed 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-4.
“It just wasn’t there today,” Barty admitted. “At times I was missing by big margins, which is not something that I’m very used to or comfortable with.”
The defeat puts Barty’s number one ranking in jeopardy, with both Japan’s Naomi Osaka and Czech Karolina Pliskova eyeing the top spot.
Second-seeded Osaka will open her campaign on Wednesday against Germany’s Tatjana Maria, and if the Japanese star wins there will be a new number one next week.
Osaka is the front-runner to return to the summit, but Pliskova could have a chance if she makes the semi-finals.
Pliskova meanwhile beat US qualifier Alison Riske 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 in a hard-fought match which went beyond the two-hour mark.
Croatia’s Donna Vekic also saved three match points on the way to a 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5) win over American Madison Keys.
There was no coming back, however, for seventh-seeded American Sloane Stephens, who fell 6-2, 7-5 to Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova.
Bouzkova, ranked 91st in the world, notched her first win over a top-50 player.
“I honestly still can’t believe it,” said Bouzkova, who broke Stephens five times -- taking full advantage of the former US Open champion’s 48 unforced errors.
Kenin, who has climbed the rankings this season with wins in Charleston and Mallorca and a runner-up finish in Acapulco, notched her first victory over a top-five player in her fourth attempt.
She needed four match points to seal the victory, with Barty saving three on her own serve in the ninth game of the final set before Kenin served it out.
Trailing 3-5 after an early break in the first set, Barty won three straight games before Kenin held to force the tiebreaker.
Barty opened a 5-1 lead in the decider and pocketed the set on her third set point.
Kenin raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set only for Barty to regain two service breaks. Kenin then broke again to lead 5-3 and held at love to force the third.
Nick Kyrgios meanwhile crashed back to earth with a first-round loss at the ATP Montreal Masters on Tuesday, a 6-3, 6-4 victim Briton Kyle Edmund.
Two days after winning the ATP 500 series title in Washington with a burst of consistent form, the Australian court jester was unable to maintain momentum in a match delayed for 90 minutes in the second set by light rain.
Edmund, who won the opening set and stood 4-all in the second when players returned to the court, broke immediately and served out victory.
“It felt good,” he said after striking 35 winners to 14 for Kyrgios. “He’s a tricky player.
“I was watching for his underarm serve and he bluffed me once on that.
“You just cannot predict what he will do. I could only concentrate on my side and play my game.”
Felix Auger-Aliassime won the highly-touted battle of Canadians over Vasek Pospisil 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/3).
An electrifying clash lasting just over two and a half hours marked another success in a breakthrough season for the 18-year-old winner.
The world number 21 has already reached his first three career ATP singles finals and three months ago became the youngest player to crack the Top 25 since Lleyton Hewitt in 1999.
“I’m pleased that I won, it would have been tough to lose that one,” the teenager said.
“There were a lot of tough moments today, but I was able to deal with them in a good way every time. There’s a lot of positives to take from that.”
He next faces another Canadian, Milos Raonic, the 17th seed, whom he beat at Stuttgart in June after losing on hardcourt in March, 2018.
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