Ashleigh Barty won’t be taking Naomi Osaka’s world number one ranking this weekend after losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Cincinnati Masters semi-finals.
Osaka had to withdraw from her quarter-final tie with Sofia Kenin on Friday after struggling with a knee injury. Her earlier exit from the hard-court competition opened up the opportunity for Barty to knock her off the top of the world rankings.
Barty knew that she would return to the number one spot if she reached the final at the Southern & Western Open. However, a resurgent Kuznetsova claimed a straight-sets 6-2 6-4 victory to ensure Osaka will top the standings when the US Open gets underway.
Kuznetsova will face American Madison Keys, who beat Kenin 7-5 6-4, in Sunday’s final as she looks to make a real statement ahead of the final Grand Slam of the season. Her summer plans were disrupted due to visa issues but Kuznetsova has made up for lost time in Cincinnati this week.
She said: “It’s amazing to be playing here again on center court after the injuries of the last few years. “I must admit, I did enjoy the time at home in Moscow, sleeping in my own bed. I was glad to have the time off.
“I’m back now and feeling no pressure. I never though I’d be back to this level so quickly. “I’m playing good tennis again.”
Kuznetsova is priced at 2.06 to win Sunday’s final, while home contender Keys is the favourite to triumph and can be backed at 1.50.