Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka remain on track for last-16 showdown in Melbourne

·3 min read

Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka continued their progress towards a probable meeting in the last 16 at the Australian Open with second-round victories.

Ever since the draw was made, a date between the world number one and defending champion has been inked in for Sunday, and both have avoided drama so far.

Osaka briefly looked in a spot of bother against American Madison Brengle when she trailed by a break in the second set but she recomposed herself immediately to come through 6-0 6-4.

Among those watching on TV was Andy Murray, who Tweeted: “Anyone hit the ball cleaner from the baseline than @naomiosaka?”

Osaka replied commending Murray’s fighting spirit, and she said after the match: “It’s a little bit shocking, because, when you’re playing, you never really think about the TV is broadcasting it and other people are watching.

“So definitely really surreal. I hit with him once like three years ago and it was a memory that’s really dear to me. It was really cool just to have someone like him talking about my game.”

Barty has dropped only three games in four sets, following up a 6-0 6-1 victory over Lesia Tsurenko by seeing off qualifier Lucia Bronzetti 6-1 6-1 in just 52 minutes.

The Australian hero, who is a member of the Ngaragu people through her great-grandmother, was particularly proud to take to the court during the tournament’s inaugural First Nations Day.

Barty said: “It was really cool. It was nice for me to be a part of it in a way that I feel most comfortable I suppose. Out on the tennis court is how I express myself as an athlete, it’s how I’m able to express myself as a person as well.

“On a day we’re bringing cultures together, bringing people together, it was really nice for me to go out and enjoy that.

“I just met a few of the kids that have come down from Alice Springs and all around Australia, which is amazing for them to come and experience the Australian Open on a really special day for our culture and our heritage.”

Barty will expect to face a tougher test next against big-hitting Italian Camila Giorgi while Osaka could find life very tricky against 20-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, who has hit top form again in Australia.

A junior prodigy, Anisimova reached the fourth round here and the French Open semi-finals as a 17-year-old but has understandably struggled since the death of her father and coach Konstantin later in 2019.

She began this season with a first title for nearly three years in the WTA event at Melbourne Park and scored a notable win on Wednesday, knocking out 22nd seed and Olympic champion Belinda Bencic 6-2 7-5.

Amanda Anisimova defeated Belinda Bencic to set up a clash with Naomi Osaka
Amanda Anisimova defeated Belinda Bencic to set up a clash with Naomi Osaka (Simon Baker/AP)

Anisimova said of meeting Osaka: “I’ve been wanting to play her for a while. I’ll enjoy it, I’ll enjoy the atmosphere. She’s an amazing player, so I’ll look forward to that.”

It was a good day all round for the favourites, with in-form duo Paula Badosa and Barbora Krejcikova easing through to round three.

Fourth seed Krejcikova defeated highly rated 20-year-old Chinese Wang Xiyu 6-2 6-3 while eighth seed Badosa powered to a 6-0 6-3 victory over Martina Trevisan.

Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka has begun strongly in Melbourne and saw off Jil Teichmann 6-1 6-2 to set up an intriguing clash with 15th seed Elina Svitolina.

Fifth seed Maria Sakkari also eased into the last 32, beating China’s Zheng Qinwen 6-1 6-4.