Barty blasting her way towards breaking 44-year Australian Open hoodoo

Ash Barty, Australian Open, featured, Tennis

It’s Ash Barty’s Australian Open and the rest of the players are just living in it.

The Australian world No.1 dropped just five games on the way to accounting for Camila Giorgi in straight sets on Rod Laver Arena.

Barty’s 6-2 6-3 rout of the statuesque Italian, seeded 30 and aged 30, followed her equally dominant 6-1 6-1 second-round cakewalk against another Italian, Lucia Bronzetti, and a 6-0 6-1 massacre of Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko to open the tournament.

That’s three straight-sets victories for the loss of just eight games and has not had her serve broken in any of the three outings.

The 25-year-old Queenslander will return to centre court on Sunday to play the winner of Friday night’s Margaret Court Arena three-set slug-fest between four-time grand slam winner Naomi Osaka and American young gun Amanda Anisimova.

Osaka won the first set 6-4 but the defending champion lost the second 6-3 and went down 10-5 in the decisive tie-breaker as the unseeded 20-year-old recorded the biggest boilover of the first week of the tournament.

Barty was in total control for her match, breaking Giorgi to establish a 4-2 lead in the first set.

She ran into turbulence, facing three break points, but unleashed three successive booming first serves to eventually hold serve and maintain control.

One of the features of Barty’s surge through the early rounds has been her relentless play throughout each match but also her ability to move in for the kill as soon as her opponent is vulnerable.

Giorgi was forced into error, down 2-5 on serve, as Barty stalked her prey. The Italian double-faulted at deuce and a relatively easy backhand sailed wide on set point to hand it to the Australian 6-2 inside 32 minutes.

The second set went on serve for five games before Barty sensed an opportunity and went for the jugular.

A silent assassin, there are no histrionics and her opponents seem to be ever sensing the attack but are still powerless to prevent it. Barty’s presence was forcing Giorgi to panic and again on break point she shanked a backhand to put the local favourite up 4-2.

From there it was just a matter of time. And not much of it at that.

Barty breezed through her service game to make it 5-2 and then wrapped up the match in the space of an hour on her next service game to further underline her tournament favouritism.

She is hoping to become the first home-grown winner of the Australian Open since Chris O’Neil beat American Betsy Nagelsen on the old Kooyong grass courts 6-3 7-6 in the 1978 final.

“I thought tonight was really clean, I thought I looked after my service games really well. I did well to get out of a really tricky one, being 0-40 down, and I think I was just able to keep momentum going, make returns when it mattered most and overall a pretty good performance, I think,” she said.

“I felt like I was out of my weight class, that’s for sure. The way she hits the ball and can control the centre of the court is incredible. It was my job tonight to try and get her off that baseline whether it was short or deep or it was out of her strike zone, I tried to do that as often as I could.

“It’s tough when you’re against the wind and feeling like you’re uphill a little bit but all in all I thought it was pretty good. I was able to use my slice effectively, particularly that short one.”

Barty received a surprise before the match when her first coach from Ipswich, Jim Joyce, turned up to watch her third-round encounter.

“The big fella’s actually surprised me today, Jim, my first coach flew down. I saw him about an hour before my match and I said ‘what are you doing here?’ I didn’t even know he was coming down,” she said.

“It was nice for him to be here. He challenged me to try to be the most complete player I can be. Still working on it, Jim, but we’re getting there, nmate.”

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