The last remaining Australian hope in the women’s draw is going to have her work cut out on Day 7 of the tournament when she takes to the court for her fourth round match. Ashleigh Barty will play 2008 champion Maria Sharapova for a spot in the quarter-finals, where the winner will play either Petra Kvitova or Amanda Anisimova.
Barty’s career trajectory has been fascinating – from playing this tournament at 15 to being out of the sport for 18 months 3 years later. That hiatus appears to have worked wonders for her, with things coming together greatly in the past 2 years for Barty. She comes into the tournament with a career high ranking of 15, in large part to achieving her best result at each of the four slams last year – now including this one too. She had one of the kindest draws to get to this stage but dealt with it fairly easily, not dropping a set on the way. “I think more than anything it’s just the perfect preparation.” the 22 year old said. “So it was a perfect preparation through Perth and Sydney, and now I come here feeling great. I feel like I have the matches and tennis under my belts and now it’s about going out and executing on the day against my opponent.”
Sharapova knew she was going to have to step it up in the third round after two easy wins previously. She has not been the unstoppable force she was in long matches previously but was outstanding in outlasting Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 3-6 6-3 to advance. “I thought it was, as usual, as expected, a physical match. Didn’t have to be in some ways, but I felt like even in the longer rallies I did a great job of winning those. Put a lot of pressure on her.” she said. “Those are the rallies that I think many years ago that she used to win. I thought I did a great job of getting a higher percentage of wins in those.”
The match presents a great opportunity for both players to make the next round with Barty knowing she will be backed by a noisy home crowd. It should be a physical encounter once more and it will be interesting to see how she copes with the pressure, something that she has rarely faced at the highest level in the singles format.
Prediction – Maria Sharapova in three sets