World number one Ash Barty’s expectations have not risen too high after she advanced to the second week of the Australian Open on Friday following a 6-3 6-2 third round victory over Elena Rybakina.
Barty is arguably the best chance of ending Australia’s long wait for a home-grown champion at the year’s first grand slam, having held the world’s top ranking since last September and with the Adelaide International title under her belt.
The 23-year-old made a stuttering start to the tournament on Monday but was imperious against the highly rated Rybakina, whose power hitting and big serve led to her first WTA title and propelled her into the top-40 last year.
“I think today was probably my sharpest match that I played,” Barty told reporters after the one hour, 18 minute match on Rod Laver Arena.
“I felt like I could put the ball where I wanted to more often than not. Today (it) felt like it was cleaner than the other matches.”
Supported by numerous fans wearing bright pink “Barty Party” t-shirts in the stands, Barty had a little trouble settling into the match.
Neither player was able to hold serve in the opening four games but once Barty held in the fifth it was virtually one-way traffic from then on until she clinched the first set in 32 minutes.
Barty will now face either 18th-seeded American Alison Riske or doubles partner Julia Goerges in the fourth round.