Sunday Star-Times

Osaka spells end for Barty


First came the shock change of court, then came the unwanted exit, as Ashleigh Barty’s Australian Open campaign came to a crashing halt when beaten by Japan’s Naomi Osaka yesterday.

Barty was listed to be the third match on Rod Laver Arena but Simona Halep’s record-breaking win over Lauren Davis which went for almost four hours forced a change of schedule, as tournament officials sought to avoid the prospect of Roger Federer taking to court after midnight.

Shunted to Margaret Court Arena, Barty struggled with Osaka’s power and was ousted 6-4 6-2.

Barty had been able to conjure victory after falling behind a set in her opening two matches but on this occasion, she was unable to rebound against the world No 72.

Osaka, 20, broke once in the first set and opened by blunting Barty’s serve twice in the second set to surge to a 4-0 lead – and all but seal victory.

Barty had never advanced through to the round of 16 at her home grand slam and will have to wait at least another season to do so.

She did not settle well and could not dictate play with her forehand.

Osaka, who had some major scalps last year, is seen as one of the WTA’s stars on the rise – and she proved that against Barty, who had a wonderful 2017 where her ranking rose to No 17 in the world and she had multiple wins against top 10 opponents.

Barty raised her intensity in the second set and held serve in the fifth match but Osaka was sublime, her attacking and power game all but wiping the last Australian in the women’s draw, from the court.

There was an unlikely speck of hope when Osaka, serving for the match, dropped the opening two points. But Osaka’s thumping serves ensured she shrugged off trouble – and she finished off the match with a thundering ace, claiming the second set in 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, world No 1 Simona Halep said she was ‘‘almost dead’’ after a record-equalling 48-game, almost four-hour third-rounder against America’s unheralded Lauren Davis on Rod Laver Arena that will live in the memory of those who witnessed it.

Their 3hr 44min marathon, won 15-13 in the decider by Halep, equals the longest-ever Australian Open women’s match in terms of games, matching the 48-game epic played by Chanda Rubin and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1996, won by Rubin, 16-14 in the third.

Halep had survived three match points and feels she is improving mentally under coach Darren Cahill.

‘‘I think in the past I would not have fought that hard,’’ Halep said.

The Age

 ??  ?? Japan’s Naomi Osaka.
Japan’s Naomi Osaka.

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