Ashleigh Barty has made a near flawless return to the court after almost a year without playing, advancing to the Australian Open fourth round in style and winning a WTA lead-up tournament before the first grand slam of the year.
Any doubts about her on-court touch and mental preparedness for grand slam tennis have been put to rest because of this, and her rivals – many who played through the pandemic in 2020 – are taking notice of Barty’s impressive form.
Ashleigh Barty next faces Shelby Rogers.Credit:Getty Images
The Australian world No.1 will play American Shelby Rogers on Monday in the fourth round in her quest to go two wins better than her semi-final finish in last year’s Australian Open.
While Barty is playing with strapping on her left thigh, she insists it is a small matter that she is on top of and she did not seem in trouble in an ominous, commanding win over 29th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova on Saturday night.
Naomi Osaka’s coach Wim Fissette – who has guided a range of players to seven grand slam wins – has been in awe of what Barty is doing on the court.
The coach of the world No.3 Osaka, who won the Australian Open in 2019 and the US Open in 2020, says Barty will be difficult to beat should his player face her if both got to the final.
“Yeah, I mean, I think it’s very impressive. Also not really a surprise,” Fissette, who has also coached Kim Clijsters, Simona Halep, Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova, said.
“Ashleigh is such a natural. Honestly, I didn’t expect anything else from her. She feels the game really well. She understands the game really well.
“She also has different options if something is not working, she can go back, let’s say, to a little bit more slice on the backhand. She has her serve. She can, let’s say, make the other player play bad that day. She has different options.
“Still, yeah, to win the first tournament after 12 months and also the way she’s been playing now, it’s very impressive. She’s for sure a very tough one to beat her.”
Barty will play Rogers on Monday night at Rod Laver Arena.
The 28-year-old Rogers is ranked 57th in the world and has never been past the fourth round of the Australian Open, but has made the quarter-finals of the French and US Open.
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