Barty beats No. 1 Simona Halep in Romanian's tour return

Barty had previously not taken a set off Halep but took two in a stunning upset of the Belgian

"I finally learned my lesson", said Barty, who had suffered two straight-sets defeats by Halep a year ago.

While Barty marches on in pursuit of a second straight final in Sydney, Halep's defeat leaves her Australian Open preparations in tatters. I learnt a little bit more in Cincinnati, but today I knuckled down and really thought about it and really gave myself a chance.

The defending WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai champion Ashleigh Barty has finished 2018 season on a high note and kicked off the new one in equally impressive terms, toppling the world no. 1 Simona Halep 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 27 minutes for a career-high victory. "I believed I could win". Halep won last year's French Open and lost to Caroline Wozniacki in the Australian Open final. "We're both on the same court and I'm just really happy I came out and executed".

"I had nothing to lose out here so I just came out and played with freedom".

Kiki Bertenes, seeded seventh, awaits Putintseva after she received a walkover win due to former world number one Garbine Muguruza suffering a gastrointestinal illness.

"It was extremely hard conditions and extremely swirly at court level", Barty said afterwards.

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Halep said it was challenging to play without her long-term Australian coach Darren Cahill, who is taking 12 months off the sport to focus on his family, but did not experience any back pain after taking a longer than usual recovery over Christmas. But also I was very close to win.

Barty broke Halep in the first set before the Romanian evened it up.

"I felt like it was really clean considering the conditions".

The 22-year-old Barty was rewarded with a quarter-final clash against Belgian Elise Mertens, who raced past Estonia's Anett Kontaveit 6-3 6-1.

Home favourite Alex de Minaur was at his ruthless best to dismiss American qualifier Reilly Opelka 6-4 7-6 (5), while third seed Diego Schwartzman broke Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez's serve five times en route to a 6-2 6-3 win.

Earlier, Sam Stosur's run to the Australian Open hit a major roadblock after blowing a first-set lead to Swiss Timea Bacsinszky, going down 5-7 4-6 3-6.

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