Australian Open: World No. 1 Barty reaches third round on First Nations Peoples Day

Ashleigh Barty plays a return during her second round match against Lucia Bronzetti in Melbourne on Jan 19, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Ash Barty eased into the third round of the Australian Open with the minimum of fuss on Wednesday (Jan 19), overwhelming Italian qualifier Lucia Bronzetti on Rod Laver Arena, then taking time to enjoy the tournament's inaugural First Nations Peoples Day.

A proud indigenous Australian, Barty followed in the footsteps of trailblazer Evonne Goolagong Cawley by winning the Wimbledon title last year.

Barty spoke glowingly of Goolagong Cawley's influence on young indigenous athletes and said she was glad she was able to play a match on "a really special day for our culture and our heritage".

"It was nice for me to be a part of it in a way that I feel most comfortable, I suppose," the world No. 1 said. "Out on the tennis court is how I express myself as an athlete, it's how I'm able to express myself as a person as well.

"On a day we're bringing cultures together, it was really nice for me to go out and enjoy that. Just met a few of the kids that have come down from Alice Springs and all around Australia, which is amazing for them ..."

Earlier on court, Barty hammered 11 winners to wrap up the first set in 25 minutes and was equally dominant in the second, sealing the 6-1, 6-1 victory in well under an hour.

Bronzetti, the world No. 142, failed to muster a single break point over the contest as Barty lobbed, sliced and pounded her into submission in the bright Melbourne sunshine.

Barty is hoping to end Australia's 44-year wait for a homegrown women's champion and was particularly delighted at the turnout for her match so early in the day.

"It was incredible," the 25-year-old said. "It was an awesome surprise to go out there and hear so many Aussies. It was an incredible atmosphere. It was just a lot of fun out there today."

The top seed next faces another Italian in Camila Giorgi with defending champion Naomi Osaka potentially waiting in the fourth round.

In-form Paula Badosa is firming as a contender for a maiden Grand Slam title after winning the Sydney Tennis Classic last week and easing through her first two matches at Melbourne Park for the loss of only seven games.

On Wednesday, the world No. 6 strode into the third round for the first time with a dominant 6-0, 6-3 win over Martina Trevisan.

Victoria Azarenka, the 2012 and 2013 champion, also advanced comfortably, with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Swiss Jil Teichmann.

Former US Open runner-up Madison Keys staved off a late comeback attempt by Jaqueline Cristian to beat the Romanian 6-2, 7-5.

In the men's draw, Rafael  Nadal put on a clinical performance to ease past German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 to remain on course for a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title.

The only former champion left in the men’s draw at Melbourne Park, Nadal is tied on 20 majors with Swiss Roger Federer and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who are both absent from the tournament.

The 2009 champion’s only previous meeting with the 126th-ranked Hanfmann came on the Roland Garros clay in 2019 when Nadal lost just six games en route to a straight-sets victory.

The 30-year-old German did slightly better on a windy day at the Rod Laver Arena but it was not enough to trouble Nadal, who hit 30 winners and broke his opponent’s serve four times in the match while saving both breakpoints he faced.

Nadal needed five match points before sealing victory when Hanfmann sent a forehand long. The sixth seed will next meet either Russian Karen Khachanov or Benjamin Bonzi of France for a place in the fourth round.


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