Sport Tennis Australian Open Australian Open: Barty shows might, as last year’s finalists move on

Australian Open: Barty shows might, as last year’s finalists move on

Ash Barty celebrates after a straightforward second round triumph on Rod Laver Arena. Photo: Getty
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The collywobbles of the first round behind her, Ash Barty reprised plenty of her world-leading form to secure a fourth-straight third round berth at Melbourne Park.

The Australian world No.1 navigated some second set jitters and a dicey opponent in Slovenia’s Polona Hercog to notch a 6-1 6-4 victory in just over an hour on Wednesday.

Speaking post-match to former doubles teammate Casey Dellacqua, Barty said she was stoked to escape unscathed.

“It’s been incredible, another clean match, happy to get out of that one,” Barty said.

Ash Barty showed the world why she’s world No.1 in the second round. Photo: Getty

“It was very different [from the first round], and the wind played a massive factor … once I got my opportunity I took them, and was glad to save a few break points in the second set.”

The French Open champion was dialled in from the outset, holding serve to love before immediately breaking her opponent.

Her dominant ways carried on throughout the first set for the loss of one game, with her cutting sliced backhand causing particular trouble for Hercog, who sprayed 11 unforced errors.

The Australian employed her slice to great effect. Photo: Getty

Resuming after the break, the Slovenian looked more content extending rallies, manoeuvring Barty wide before landing punishing forehand blows.

The strategy paid dividends with six break point chances in the second set.

But Barty withstood the challenge, utilising her all-court game, prowess at the net, and mettle developed as the world’s top player to see off her lower-ranked opponent.

She will next face 29th seed, Hobart International champion Elena Rybakina.

In the day’s other completed match featuring an Australian, Perth wildcard Astra Sharma floundered in the blustery conditions, succumbing to Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit 6-0 6-2.

With the match on Sharma’s racquet, the local hope’s misfiring groundstrokes reaped 12 unforced errors in a lightning-fast opening set, before some inaccuracy from the 28th seed handed her an early break.

From there, it was one-way traffic as Kontaveit won five of the last six games to secure her second-ever berth in the round of 32.

Osaka, Kvitova battle through the wind

Last year’s women’s finalists – Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova – both overcame guileful second-round opponents, and the one-two combo of sapping humidity and 30km/h winds, to navigate into the third round.

For defending champion Osaka, her path into the next round was more clinical against China’s Saisai Zheng, winning 6-2 6-4, but it wasn’t without difficulty.

World No.3 Naomi Osaka was made to battle against China’s Zheng. Photo: Getty

“I got really fired up when she was up 4-2 and people started clapping more. I was complaining over here and almost throwing my racquet, but it all worked out … I didn’t want to play a third set this time,” Osaka told Nine post-match.

Dictating play with ruthless power and ability to drag her opponent wide with angled groundstrokes in the first set, mistakes began to flow from Osaka’s racquet in the second as she grew impatient with Zheng’s consistency.

After Osaka dropped back-to-back service games, an emotional rollercoaster ensued that included racquet kicking, self-deprecating laughter and remonstrating over her racquet’s tension.

But the venting lit a fire under the Japanese world No.3, who blitzed through the final four games of the match to set up a third-round meeting with Coco Gauff – the first since their viral US Open moment.

On Rod Laver Arena, Kvitova’s well-known troubles with gusty conditions were compounded by 22-year-old Paula Badosa’s tendency to apply plenty of topspin off both wings, before scraping through 7-5 7-5.

“She played a great match and it was really tough for me to get through. She was serving well, the wind wasn’t nice and it was difficult at times,” Kvitova said.

How did Petra Kvitova feel after overcoming windy conditions and a tricky opponent? Stoked. Photo: Getty

Despite Kvitova winning her first match with the loss of one game, it was the unheralded Spaniard who managed the first breakthrough, breaking the Czech’s serve to love, sealed with an emphatic return winner.

But the advantage was immediately snuffed as the world No.7 returned the favour with an ear-piercing roar, sparking her run to the first set.

Gritty rallies continued in the second with Kvitova threatening to streak ahead off some desperate defence.

However, the world No.97 Badosa had three set points to force a third and appeared convinced she closed it out, before Hawk-Eye cruelly proved her backhand winner was mere centimetres wide.

Surviving the late scare, Kvitova’s fierce ball-striking saw her close out the match with 31 winners to her credit.

It’s easy being green for Novak Djokovic

Defending champion Novak Djokovic appeared near-flawless in his second-round rout of Tatsuma Ito, defeating the Japanese player 6-1 6-4 6-2 in one hour and 35 minutes.

Racing out of the blocks in a 22-minute opening stanza, the seven-time champion faced little trouble in the second, bringing up set point in sublime style with a dink crosscourt.

Sealing the match after barely breaking out of first gear, the world No.2 will now face Ito’s countryman Yoshihito Nishioka for a second week berth.

In other men’s results, Italian young gun Jannik Sinner suffered a surprise loss to Marton Fucsovics, who consigned Canada’s Denis Shapovalov – another next-gen prospect – to the loser’s list on day one.

And Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who won Melburnian hearts with his breakout semi-final run last year, enters the third round on fresh legs after German Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew.

Sweet victory for Caroline Wozniacki

Time’s ticking on the career of the former Australian Open champion, with this tournament her last before she hangs up the racquet.

In a vintage performance, the former world No.1 put her retirement on hold to dismantle the fast-rising Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska 7-5 7-5 in a two-hour affair.

Wozniacki immediately fell behind 5-1 as her opponent, renowned for swinging freely, painted the lines, striking 23 winners.

Relying upon her counter-punching style, Wozniacki’s athleticism allowed her back into the match and snatched the next six games, and the set.

A similar storyline unfolded in set two as Yastremska cantered to a 3-0 lead, before Wozniacki evened the ledger, eventually winning the encounter on her sixth match point.

“She came out flying, hit so hard and precise and I just didn’t know what to do. Then she started making a few more errors and I got a little more depth on the ball,” Wozniacki recounted.

On the other end of the age spectrum, teen sensation Coco Gauff showed mental fortitude beyond her years, coming from a set down to beat Romanian Sorana Cirstea 4-6 6-3 7-5.

Her compelling ability to wrest control of matches from players many years her senior made her a household name at Wimbledon last year, where she defeated Venus Williams en route to the fourth round.

And despite her fledgling career, she’s become a clear Melbourne crowd favourite, evident in the scenes of pandemonium following her win.

“Seriously, you guys cheering me on in this match, you really made me believe and it’s really emotional because I never thought it would happen,” Gauff said, wiping away tears.

Seeing double?

Sartorialists were sent into overdrive on Monday after Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov kicked off his Australian Open campaign in what can only be described as a spotted mess.

Two days later, and his Jackson Pollock-esque costume received plenty of cheers – and jeers – as he stepped onto Margaret Court Arena to face American Tommy Paul, as per The New York Times’ Christopher Clarey.

And just to make the situation even more hysterical? Paul was kitted out in the exact same shirt. Even the chair umpire could not help feeling sorry for them.

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