Ash Barty has overcome a shaky start to safely book a berth in the Australian Open fourth round for the second time in her career.
- Ash Barty lost her opening two service games but rebounded to win 6-3, 6-2
- Barty secured five breaks of serve against Elena Rybakina
- The world number one could face her Melbourne Park doubles partner, Julia Goerges, in the fourth round
Barty lost her opening two service games but recovered in impressive fashion to repel the challenge of outstanding prospect Elena Rybakina, winning 6-3, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.
The world number one is the lone Australian left in the women’s draw and she next faces either 18th seed Alison Riske or her Melbourne Park doubles partner, Julia Goerges, for a place in the quarter-finals.
Should Riske make it through, it will set up a tantalising re-match of their fourth-round encounter at Wimbledon last year, which the American won in three sets.
@AustralianOpen video tweet: “The home crowd erupts as @ashbarty becomes the first player into the round of 16 notching a 6-3 6-2 win over Rybakina”
Despite her troubles on serve early in the first set, Barty was still able to fire down five aces and did not give up a single double fault.
The reigning French Open champion broke Rybakina on five occasions, but acknowledged the 29th seed had put up “really tough” opposition.
“I felt I needed to be switched on,” Barty said in her courtside interview.
“A lot of the games were long and tough and [I was] happy to get out of them. The best game I have played this summer so far.”
The encounter with Rybakina had the potential to be a ‘banana skin’ match for Barty, given the talent the 20-year-old from Kazakhstan possesses.
At six-feet tall and strongly built, Rybakina — ranked 26 in the world and coming off a tournament victory at the Hobart International last week — did overpower Barty at times in the first set and showed why she is one of the rising stars on the WTA Tour.
Barty stays cool under early pressure
There were ominous signs for Barty at the beginning of the match, as she dropped serve in the first game.
It was not a case of Barty feeling nervous but rather Rybakina showing her ability to dictate terms, illustrated in the opening point of the game when a cracking forehand to the corner left her more experienced opponent floundering behind the baseline.
Barty, however, rebounded in the next game and levelled at 1-1 by breaking Rybakina’s serve.
Ground strokes were not the only weapons Rybakina had in her armoury, as she showed off a deft drop shot from close to the baseline en route to breaking Barty for a second time to lead 2-1.
Rybakina’s serve has the potential to be among the best in the women’s game, but it is erratic at this infant stage of her senior career and Barty capitalised to steal another break in the fourth game.
Barty finally held to lead 3-2 and with another service break she extended her lead to 5-2 and even had a set point with Rybakina serving.
Rybakina, though, was able to hold for the first time, before Barty won the set the following game.
Two breaks of serve meant Barty enjoyed significant breathing space during the second set.
She was tested at times on her serve, with Rybakina holding a number of break points but she unable to convert and this is where the strengths of Barty’s game were best illustrated.
The Queenslander proved she could slug it out from the baseline, while she also employed her lethal sliced backhand to bamboozle Rybakina.
And her cool temperament served her well, as she closed out the second set to seal the win.