Already one of the favourites for the Australian Open title, Ashleigh Barty will be feeling the weight of expectation even more with her route to the final opening up even further after Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams losses mean neither will be waiting for her in a potential semi final. She plays Alison Riske for a spot in the quarter finals, hoping to get on the board in their head to head which currently stands at 0-2.
Riske was seen mostly as a top grass player in the past but her results on other surfaces often left a lot to be desired. That has changed over the past few years with 2019 seeing three finals (one title), a career best slam run and a career high ranking of 18. Riske plays aggressive and hits flat, a style that she has improved upon as her career goes on. She showcased her fighting abilities in her round three win over Julia Goerges, coming from a set down to beat the German 1-6 7-6 6-2. “I just tried to keep a positive attitude about it and felt like if I could get a couple things going on my end, particularly my serve, maybe get a few returns in play, that, you know, I’d probably have some looks. That’s exactly what happened.” she said. “I’m just really proud that I was able to work through it mentally and get the win today.”
Barty’s variety was on show for all her to see in her comfortable win over Elena Rybakina on Friday. She was broken early but it was all the Australian from then on with 28 winners coming off the Barty racquet in the 6-2 6-3 win. Her improvement since returning to tennis has been huge and she is going to stay at No.1 for a long while given her hefty lead in the WTA rankings. “I think today was probably my sharpest match that I played,” Barty told press afterward. “I felt really comfortable moving around the court. I felt like I found the middle of the racquet a lot sooner than my other matches.
“It’s going to be a different experience, I’m playing on her home turf. I expect the fans against me, as they should be. It’s going to be a battle. So I’m looking forward to it.” Riske said. The slower Melbourne courts should favour Barty on this occasion while a vocal home crowd will be cheering the favourite all the way.
Prediction – Ashleigh Barty in straight sets