abc– World number one Ash Barty has made the Australian Open quarter-finals for the third consecutive year following a straight-sets victory over Shelby Rogers.
Barty was at her clinical best for much of her 6-3, 6-4 triumph over the unseeded American on Rod Laver Arena on Monday evening, taking an hour and 11 minutes to book a spot in the last eight.
She only lost one service game against Rogers, surprisingly when she served for the match at 5-2 in the second set.
Barty will next play the 25th-seeded Karolina Muchova, who defeated Elise Mertens — the tournament’s 18th seed — 7-6 (7/5), 7-5 in their fourth-round encounter.
The top half of the draw continued to open up on Monday following the surprise exit of fifth seed Elina Svitolina, who lost to Jessica Pegula in three sets.
Barty is the only seed inside the top 10 to reach the quarter-finals in her half.
The 24-year-old is looking to become the first Australian to win the women’s singles championship since Chris O’Neil in 1978.
She reached the semi-finals last year but lost to eventual winner Sofia Kenin in straight sets.
Barty only returned to the WTA Tour in the week before the Australian Open after sitting out 11 months of the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She won the Yarra Valley Classic, a lead-up tournament at Melbourne Park, giving her a confidence boost ahead of her eighth Australian Open campaign.
“If we had looked at the way we were preparing during our preseason, to have the start that we have had so far is really encouraging,” Barty said.
“But certainly [we’re] not satisfied with where we’re at, at the moment.
Barty did not post a double fault in the first set against Rogers, while also landing 75 per cent of her first serves in and chalking up three aces.
Despite the service break in the second set, she was still pleased with her overall performance.
“I knew it was going to be vital to serve well tonight,” Barty said.
“That was something I really wanted to try and focus on, just to try and give myself a chance to be in control of more points.”
Barty on song in first set
Barty again wore a bandage and tape on her left thigh but as with her past two matches showed no signs of physical discomfort on court.
In contrast to her wins in the second and third rounds, Barty held serve in the opening game.
Rogers did likewise with her first service game but soon found herself chasing Barty, who quickly took command of the first set.
A cross-court forehand winner iced a break of the Rogers serve that saw Barty lead 3-1.
Rogers had two break points when she trailed 2-4 in the seventh game, but Barty refused to panic and got herself out of trouble to hold serve.
Barty made no mistake when serving for the first set 5-3, closing it out in just 29 minutes.
She was cruising to victory when she served at 5-2 in the second set with the luxury of two match points and a double break.
But Rogers, who gave Barty a stern test during their Yarra Valley Classic quarter-final earlier this month, did not roll over when staring at defeat.
She won four consecutive points to claim her first service break of the match before holding in the next game.
An unfazed Barty, however, rebounded by serving to love to earn a quarter-final berth against Muchova.
Barty, who won her previous encounter with Muchova in the third round of the 2018 US Open, said she expected a tough contest against the Czech.
“It will be a brilliant match,” she said.
“I know she’s got the ability to manoeuvre the ball all around the court, play with variety and play with shape.”