Ashleigh Barty is poised for entry into the world’s top five after booking a career-best third-round showing at the French Open.
Even a loss to Danielle Collins on Thursday would have seen Australia’s world No.8 jump provisionally to sixth ahead of Wimbledon in July.
Barty can better that though thanks to a gritty 7-5 6-1 win against the capable American on a damp, cold Paris afternoon that continued the Australian’s charmed 2019 run.
Jordan Thompson also reached new ground with a poised four-set defeat of Ivo Karlovic, while wildcard Priscilla Hon will resume on Friday eyeing a massive upset, locked 5-7 7-5 with last year’s semi-finalist Madison Keys.
Barty could leave Paris as high as second in the world if she wins the tournament, with top-five trio Angelique Kerber, Kiki Bertens and Petra Kvitova all early casualties or non-starters on the clay.
World No.1 Naomi Osaka has escaped two scares to remain on track for a quarter-final appearance with Barty, while No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova is also still in the mix.
The 23-year-old is already playing the part of a top-five star, weathering the Australian Open semi-finalist Collins’ best blows in a seesawing first set before executing a clinical finish in just under 80 minutes on court.
“I knew that I needed to be better than I was in my first round, and overall it was a much better performance,” she said.
“When I needed to, I served well and I was a little bit smarter with where I served on those bigger points and was able to get myself back in control.
“I think ultimately that’s what we’re after, when you’re in the big points and the big moments, to come up with your best tennis.”
Barty will play German veteran Andrea Petkovic in the third round on Saturday, while an encounter with Serena Williams is still on the cards following that.
Barty’s win came hot on the heels of Samantha Stosur’s departure in Paris – the 35-year-old’s first before the third round in 10 years.
Stosur played well but couldn’t match the power of Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, who seemed to grow in stature after being pushed around by the Australian in the first set.
But Jordan Thompson will join Barty in his first grand slam third round as the last Australian man standing after his clinical performance against big-serving 40-year-old Karlovic.
Amazingly, Thompson made just five unforced errors to go with 47 winners to reverse a gutting five-set loss to the Croatian at the same stage in France three years ago.
He is set to at least equal a career-high ranking of 60 as he eyes a date with eighth seed Juan Martin Del Potro.
Hon matched 14th seed Keys’ power from the baseline and wasn’t fussed when she dropped the first set, stepping up her game to ensure the contest was level when bad light stopped play.
HOW THE AUSSIES FARED ON DAY FIVE (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING)
- * 8-Ashleigh Barty d Danielle Collins (USA) 7-5 7-1
- * Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) d Samantha Stosur 3-6 6-1 6-4
- * Jordan Thompson d Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 6-3 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 6-3
AUSSIES IN ACTION ON DAY SIX
* Priscilla Hon v 14-Madison Keys (USA) to resume at 5-7 7-5