French Open champion Ashleigh Barty is three victories away from becoming the first Australian woman since 1976 to top the singles rankings.

The dynamic 23-year-old landed her first grand slam title at Roland Garros earlier this month, and world number one Naomi Osaka's early exit from the Birmingham Classic has opened the door for Barty to nudge above the Japanese player.

Osaka crashed out in the last 16 on Thursday when she lost 6-2 6-3 to Kazakhstan's world number 43 Yulia Putintseva, suffering a blow to her preparations for Wimbledon on the Edgbaston grass.

Second seed Barty sailed through to the quarter-finals as a 6-3 6-1 winner against American Jennifer Brady but must capture the title on Sunday to depose Osaka.

Evonne Goolagong Cawley was the first Australian to reach number one on the WTA list, taking top spot away from Chris Evert for a fortnight in 1976, just six months after the computerised ranking system was introduced to the tour.

Venus Williams is no stranger to the summit of the rankings and the 39-year-old American remains a force to be reckoned with, particularly on grass.

The five-time Wimbledon champion is making her debut at this tournament and set up a quarter-final against Barty by beating China's Qiang Wang 6-3 6-2.

Germany's Julia Goerges, the eighth seed and a Wimbledon semi-finalist last year, was a 6-4 6-3 winner against Russian Evgeniya Rodina.

French Open champion Ashleigh Barty can become world number one for the first time after rival Naomi Osaka suffered an early setback on grass.

The likelihood of Australian Barty jumping to the top spot grew on Thursday when WTA rankings leader Osaka was beaten in the last 16 of the Birmingham Classic.

Osaka slipped to a 6-2 6-3 defeat against Kazakhstan's world number 43 Yulia Putintseva, dealing a blow to her preparations for Wimbledon.

Second seed Barty went safely through to the quarter-finals as a 6-3 6-1 winner against American Jennifer Brady but must capture the title on Sunday to depose Osaka.

French Open champion Ashleigh Barty continued her superb form with a straight-sets win over Donna Vekic at the Birmingham Classic.

Fresh from her win at Roland Garros, second seed Barty had little trouble in adapting from clay to grass as she eased through her first-round match 6-3 6-4 on Wednesday.

Barty did have to get through a wobble early on, but soon got into her stride to dispatch Vekic – a beaten finalist at the Nottingham Open.

The 23-year-old Australian conceded four double faults through the first set, but soon recovered thanks to some unforced Vekic errors.

Barty was tested as she looked to close out the win, as Vekic came up with a series of impressive winners to break serve.

But Barty had the win firmly in her sights, and an exceptional double break set up a match point which she duly converted to earn a second-round tie with Jennifer Brady, who won her contest with Lesia Tsurenko 6-3 6-3.

British number one Johanna Konta, however, did not fare as well – the seventh seed dumped out by Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-4 in their second-round clash.

Konta reached the semi-finals in Paris, but 2017 French Open winner Ostapenko was too sharp on the grass court midweek.

Petra Martic will be Ostapenko's opponent in the last eight, where they are joined by Kristyna Pliskova, who beat her twin sister and third seed Karolina 6-2 3-6 7-6 (9-7).

Meanwhile, former world number one Venus Williams enjoyed a winning Birmingham debut as she knocked out Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3 6-4 to reach the second round, where she will take on sixth seed Wang Qiang.

Barbora Strycova beat Hsieh Su-wei 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 in Wednesday's other match.

Anastasija Sevastova made light work of Ajla Tomljanovic to set up a Mallorca Open quarter-final against Yafan Wang.

Second-seed Sevastova, Mallorca Open champion in 2017, was in fine form on Wednesday, easily seeing off Tomljanovic 6-2 6-1.

The world number 12 struck nine winners and made just five unforced errors without facing a single break point, such was her superiority, and she improved her career record at the grass-court event to 15 wins from 17 matches.

Tomljanovic looked sharp at times but made 19 unforced errors to allow Sevastova to take control and ease into the final eight.

Wang will be Sevastova's opponent in the next round, after she overcame Alison van Uytvanck in straight sets 7-6(7-3) 6-3.

Meanwhile, 2018 semi-finalist Samantha Stosur bowed out to number four seed Elise Mertens, who won 6-3 6-3.

Mertens will face seventh seed Sofia Kenin in the quarter-finals, who claimed her spot after Ons Jabeur retired during their match while trailing 6-2 2-0.

Top seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber is in action on Thursday, facing Maria Sharapova.

World number one Naomi Osaka required three sets to seal her place in the second round of the Birmingham Classic on a rain-hit day in Edgbaston.

The top seed edged past Greece's Maria Sakkari 6-1 4-6 6-3 to set a duel with Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva, who defeated British wildcard Harriet Dart.

"I feel, like, every day that I play on grass of course I'm going to learn how to play better, but for now I'm just really happy I was able to win that match," said Osaka.

"I think it's really important for me. I'm only playing this tournament before Wimbledon, so I would love to get a lot of matches in and sort of build my confidence up."

Osaka's rival for the number one ranking, Ashleigh Barty, was among a group of players including Venus Williams who saw their matches postponed until Wednesday.

There were wins for eighth seed Julia Goerges and 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko, who now meets British number one Johanna Konta.

One other intriguing contest looks set to be that of the Pliskova twin sisters, Karolina and Kristyna, in what will be their ninth head-to-head.

 

Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber battled through her opening match at the Mallorca Open to set up a clash with Maria Sharapova.

Kerber was worked hard by Ysaline Bonaventure and let a lead slip in the second set before coming from behind in the third, finally winning 7-5 4-6 6-2.

It was not an entirely convincing return to the grass courts and Kerber will face another tough test against Sharapova in the next round.

The five-time grand slam champion was playing for the first time since January when she took on Viktoria Kuzmova.

Sharapova also found the first set tough work but then took complete control, securing a comprehensive 7-6 (10-8) 6-0 triumph.

Meanwhile, Anastasija Sevastova, a finalist in Mallorca in each of the tournament's three years, winning in 2017, advanced with relative ease.

She saw off Varvara Lepchenko in straight sets.

Caroline Garcia built on her Nottingham Open title last week by rallying past Victoria Azarenka 1-6 6-4 7-5, while Amanda Anisimova - the teenage French Open semi-finalist - continued her good form with a win.

Alize Cornet, Sam Stosur, Ons Jabeur, Paula Badosa and Shelby Rogers all also won.

Elise Mertens dropped just four games as she eased past Andrea Petkovic at the Mallorca Open, with Sofia Kenin and Belinda Bencic also making it through to round two.

Fourth seed Mertens had a first-serve percentage of just 47, though it did not hamper her as she saw off Petkovic 6-2 6-2, converting match point at the third time of asking.

"I just felt good today and for my first match on grass," Mertens said in quotes published on the WTA's website. 

"I was a little bit nervous to get the win, but I'm really happy to get it."

Kenin, who beat Serena Williams at the French Open but was knocked out by eventual champion Ashleigh Barty in the last 16, defeated Mertens' Belgian compatriot Kirsten Flipkens 6-2 6-3.

Bencic, the third seed in Mallorca, secured a 7-5 6-4 success over Rebecca Peterson.

Elina Svitolina suffered an error-strewn loss in the first round of the Birmingham Classic, while Karolina Pliskova was among the seeds to advance.

World number seven Svitolina was beaten 6-3 3-6 6-4 by Margarita Gasparyan, the Ukrainian's cause not helped by five double faults and 15 unforced errors in the opening set in her first match since losing in the last 32 at the French Open.

Third seed Pliskova experienced no such problems as the wildcard did not face a break point in seeing off Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-3 6-4, the Czech recording her 30th victory of 2019, the third-most among those on the WTA Tour.

Johanna Konta, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros, also advanced courtesy of a 6-4 6-2 success over Anett Kontaveit.

Yet fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka was ousted as Hsieh Su-wei beat a top-10 player for the fourth time this season.

Hsieh, who was a break down in the decider, won 6-3 2-6 7-6 (7-1) to set up a second-round clash with her doubles partner Barbora Strycova.

Caroline Garcia came through a long day to take the Nottingham Open title, battling from a set down to beat Donna Vekic 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-4).

The top two seeds met in the showpiece, but Garcia had already been on court earlier on Sunday to complete a semi-final victory over Jennifer Brady and was forced to go the distance again by Vekic.

Having won two games to wrap up Saturday's postponed clash, the French star was initially on the back foot against the relentless Vekic, who was chasing her second Nottingham crown.

A superb wind-assisted backhand pass secured the first break and Vekic swiftly doubled her advantage.

The Croatian had registered a pair of bagels in a three-set last-four win over Tatjana Maria, and Garcia took five games to get on the board in a one-sided opener.

The second set was a far more even affair, with Garcia twice breaking - executing a superb forehand and then a storming return - but seeing her advantage quickly cancelled out on each occasion.

The consequent tie-break was similarly tight until Vekic caught the net and then went long to prompt a decider.

With the third set staying on serve, Garcia rallied from 30-0 down to stay in the match and go to another breaker, where she again kept her composure for the seventh WTA Tour title of her career.

Alison Riske saved five championship points in the second set before beating home hope Kiki Bertens to take the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships title in the Netherlands on Sunday.

American world number 61 Riske was a set and a break down but scrambled for a 0-6 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 victory over Dutch top seed and world number four Bertens.

Victory from the brink of defeat for Riske gave her a first WTA Tour title since October 2014, when she beat Belinda Bencic in the Tianjin Open final, and a maiden grass-court triumph.

It also meant she snapped a run of six successive final losses and handed Bertens defeat in her first championship match on the surface.

Riske said in an on-court speech: "I'm just so grateful for an awesome week and I look forward to being back again next year."

Riske had lost her three previous matches against Bertens and looked destined to suffer the same fate in Den Bosch before the momentum turned dramatically.

Bertens had taken a fall early in the second set, requiring treatment, but there was no immediate impact on her performance at that stage.

Riske got over the line after a 30-minute rain delay, teeing up two match points with a volleyed winner and seeing the first converted when Bertens fired a forehand wide.

Kiki Bertens will face teenage qualifier Elena Rybakina in the semi-finals on home soil after winning twice at the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships on Friday.

Bertens finished off Arantxa Rus 7-5 6-3 before returning later in the day to see off Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-3 6-3 in 's-Hertogenbosch.

The top seed took just 70 minutes to account for Vikhlyantseva, winning 82 per cent of points on her powerful first serve and making the Russian pay for 30 unforced errors.

World number four Bertens retired from the French Open due to illness but could give herself the perfect tonic this weekend by making a glorious start to the grass-court season.

Kazakhstan's Rybakina defeated Kirsten Flipkens 6-4 6-4, while Alison Riske and Veronika Kudermetova will contest the other semi-final after beating Ekaterina Alexandrova and Greet Minnen respectively.

Donna Vekic downed Kristina Mladenovic to reach the last four of the Nottingham Open in a contest that was played on grass and then indoors.

Vekic and doubles world number one Mladenovic had to complete their match inside on a hard court due to more rain and it was the second seed who prevailed 7-5 6-4.

The Croatian will face Tatjana Maria - a straight-sets victor over Ajla Tomljanovic - while top seed Caroline Garcia battled past Elena-Gabriela Ruse in three sets and will take on Jennifer Brady, a 7-5 6-3 winner against fourth seed Maria Sakkari.

 

Kiki Bertens was on course for the quarter-finals of the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships when play was suspended and Caroline Garcia progressed in Nottingham after being forced indoors due to rain.

World number four Bertens led 7-5 4-3 in 's-Hertogenbosch on Thursday when inclement weather prevented her from finishing a second-round encounter with Arantxa Rus.

Wildcard Rus stormed into a 5-1 lead in the opening set, but fellow Dutchwoman Bertens dug herself out of a huge hole by winning six games in a row in their homeland.

Top seed Bertens, who withdrew from the French Open due to illness, broke straight back after failing to hold in the opening game of the second set and they were on serve when the rain returned.

Ekaterina Alexandrova and Elena Rybakina were 6-3 6-4 winners over Ysaline Bonaventure and Alison Van Uytvanck respectively, while Veronika Kudermetova got past Destanee Aiava in straight sets.

Top seed Garcia moved into the quarter-finals of the Nottingham Open with a 6-3 6-1 thrashing of British wildcard Maia Lumsden.

Matches were moved to an indoor hardcourt facility with no play possible on the grass due to poor weather, with second seed Donna Vekic hammering Chloe Paquet 6-1 6-2.

Maria Sakkari, Kristina Mladenovic, Ajla Tomljanovic and Tatjana Maria also advanced along with Jennifer Brady and Elena-Gabriela Ruse.

Kristina Mladenovic moved into the Nottingham Open second round, while former champion Donna Vekic battled through on Wednesday.

Mladenovic, coming off a French Open doubles success, was too good for qualifier Magdalena Frech 7-5 6-2 at the WTA International tournament.

The eighth seed managed to break five times in her win, setting up a last-16 meeting with Australian Astra Sharma.

Vekic, the 2017 champion, overcame Dalila Jakupovic 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-0 in just under two hours.

After a second-set hiccup, the Croatian rushed through the third set, losing just 10 points to advance from a match moved indoors due to persistent rain in Nottingham.

On what was a good day for the seeds, Caroline Garcia thrashed Naiktha Bains 6-1 6-2, Maria Sakkari brushed past Heather Watson and Ajla Tomljanovic beat qualifier Danielle Lao.

At the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships in 's-Hertogenbosch, two-time runner-up Kirsten Flipkens upset fourth seed Lesia Tsurenko 7-6 (10-8) 7-5 in the second round.

There were also wins for qualifier Greet Minnen and Natalia Vikhlyantseva.

The "extraordinary" Ashleigh Barty could have been slaying England bowlers in the Ashes next month rather than being a major contender for Wimbledon glory.

Australian Barty claimed her first grand slam singles title with a 6-1 6-3 demolition of Marketa Vondrousova in the French Open final last Saturday.

The amiable 23-year-old has soared to second in the WTA rankings following her triumph at Roland Garros and is well fancied to claim back-to-back major titles at the All England Club.

Yet Barty may have been lifting a different trophy in England if she had persisted with professional cricket rather than end an 18-month hiatus to resume her tennis career in 2016.

That is according to Andy Richards, who wasted no time in offering Barty a contract to play for Brisbane Heat in the Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) after being taken aback by her natural talent.

Barty's former coach Richards told Omnisport: "Without a doubt, another 12 months if she continued playing cricket she could definitely have played for Australia.

"I have no doubt that if she stayed in cricket she would have been in England in a couple of weeks' time for the Ashes.

"I believe it would have been a very natural progression for her and she would have just made it happen. You talk to other people who saw her play and they would say the same. She certainly had the skills to make it happen."

Richards recalls being stunned by Barty's ability when she first strapped on the pads for a net session, seeking a new challenge after quitting tennis due to the demands of life on tour and the expectation on her shoulders.

"For somebody who had never worn a set of pads or gloves, never had a real cricket bat, never batted in a helmet, I fed her probably 150 balls and she missed maybe two to three, probably mistimed six or eight and the rest she hit flush," he said.

"It was most extraordinary. I asked 'are you sure you haven't played before?' And she said just with her dad in the backyard. Her hand-eye ability and ability to access a ball and hit it was most extraordinary.

"Her ability to pick up things was quite spectacular. We have had people come across from other sports, but none even close to her in terms of ability to transfer skills. Going from a cross-bat sport to what is essentially a vertical-bat sport, she was incredible."

Richards added: "She bowled off-spin as well. Hadn't bowled in her life, but I showed her how to do it. She saw Jemma Barsby, who bowls with both hands, and said 'if one person can bowl with both hands, surely I can bowl with one'.

"I showed her how I wanted her to grip the ball and follow through and she just picked it up, it was extraordinary. 

"In her first three games she scored I think a duck, a duck and one - but two of those were against Australia player Jess Jonassen. After that she went out and scored a hundred in a T20 game of club cricket off 63 balls and everything just sort of clicked and she just got better and in the WBBL game she played in she got I think 39 off 27 balls.

"She loved fitting into the team and she loved that none of the girls cared about her as a tennis player, they just cared about Ash Barty as a person."

England bowlers may be relieved Barty will be gracing the lush grass at Wimbledon rather than swinging the willow in the coming weeks.

Seeds Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens both suffered early exits at the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships on Tuesday.

Destanee Aiava recorded her first career victory over a top-10 player after battling back from a break down in the deciding set to stun second seed Sabalenka.

The Australian teenager claimed five of the final six games to triumph 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-4. She will next face Veronika Kudermetova, the Russian having progressed by beating Ons Jabeur in straight sets.

Sabalenka had reached the last four in the French Open doubles when teaming up with Mertens, who followed the example of her playing partner from Roland Garros by losing early in 's-Hertogenbosch.

The third seed was beaten by Ekaterina Alexandrova in a match that lasted 70 minutes. However, Kiki Bertens - the top seed for the tournament - had no such issues in her opening contest, brushing aside Johanna Larsson 6-3 6-1.

Lesia Tsurenko recorded a 6-4 6-4 victory over Kristyna Pliskova, while Alison Van Uytvanck also triumphed in straight sets against Wang Yafan.

Kirsten Flipkens was made to work a little harder, the Belgian overcoming a second-set blip to beat Aleksandra Krunic 6-3 3-6 6-1 and join compatriot Ysaline Bonaventure - a 6-2 2-6 6-0 winner over Fiona Ferro - in the next round.

After losing in the opening round of the doubles, French Open semi-finalist Amanda Anisimova withdrew from the singles due to illness.

Meanwhile, persistent rain meant no play was possible at the Nottingham Open.

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