Sport AFL French Open: Ash Barty stays cool as road to final opens up

French Open: Ash Barty stays cool as road to final opens up

Ash Barty has a tough draw at Wimbledon. Photo: Getty
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A steeled Ashleigh Barty is sure she’s ready to handle the occasion as she enters the second week of the French Open as a genuine contender in a wide open field.

The Australian’s path to a grand slam title on the Paris clay was turned on its head during a dramatic Saturday at Roland Garros, when both Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka fell.

Eighth seed Barty was calm among the chaos, comfortably booking a maiden fourth-round appearance with a 6-3 6-1 defeat of former world No.9 Andrea Petkovic.

Up next stop is a Monday tussle with Sofia Kenin, who blasted Williams off the court to the 10th seed’s hunt for a record-equalling 24th major title.

World No.1 Osaka had won the past two majors but her defeat means defending champion Simona Halep (third seed) is now the only higher-ranked woman between Barty and a Roland Garros final.

Barty, 23, has made a career of not thinking too far ahead and won’t start now as she hunts Australia’s first French Open title since Margaret Court won her fifth in 1973.

“For me it’s easy not to look ahead,” Barty said. “Obviously there’s talk and it’s unavoidable to hear what else is happening around the draw.

“But for me, I can’t control any of that. I can’t control what other girls are doing.

“I can only control how I prepare, how I play, and ultimately how we go about my next match.”

She has now reached the final 16 of her past three grand slams, while an unbeaten run to the Fed Cup final and a title in Miami have corresponded with a steady rise into the world’s top 10.

“I think overall, me being able to handle different occasions is getting better and better,” Barty said.

“Regardless of whether it’s a slam, a big tournament, Fed Cup, all of these different occasions I’ve been thrown into, I feel like we’ve been able to deal with it really well and, in a way, bring it back to the way I want to play and just simplify it.”

Barty says she isn’t thinking beyond Monday.

“(Kenin) is an incredible competitor, she really is,” Barty, who is now poised to enter the world’s top five, said of the 20-year-old.

“I got a little bit of a taste of that at Fed Cup earlier this year. She certainly respects every opponent but doesn’t play their reputation.

She plays them just on the other side of the net and that’s one of her best attributes. It’s going to be an extremely tough match come Monday.”

First she was due to return to the courts on Sunday, due to partner Victoria Azarenka in the second round of women’s doubles, having teamed with the former world No.1 to win in Rome last month.

A current top-10 doubles player, Barty reached the final in Paris with compatriot Casey Dellacqua two years ago.

Barty is the last Australian in the French Open field after Jordan Thompson lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the third round.

Thompson said he would’ve loved the help of Hawk-Eye after falling short of being the first Australian male into the last 16 at Roland Garros since Lleyton Hewitt in 2007.

Del Potro – eighth seed and a semi-finalist in Paris last year – overcame a heated exchange with the chair umpire early in the third set to cruise through 6-4 6-4 6-0.

Usually placid, Argentinian del Potro was well in control when he stood and argued his point with chair umpire Manuel Absolu over a line call in the third set’s opening game.

The lengthy delay didn’t help the Australian, who lost the next two points to concede the break and the next five games.

Both men vented their frustrations at Absolu at the change of ends, before chatting among themselves and shaking hands before resuming play.

While Thompson wasn’t insinuating it had cost him the contest he was clearly annoyed at the traditional process, which sees the umpire move from his chair to identify the mark on the clay rather than resort to video review technology.

“I think there should be Hawk-Eye … it would make things a lot easier,” he said. “There are so many arguments whether ball is in or out.

“If we had Hawk-Eye it’d be over in 20 seconds and we’d be back playing.”