Brisbane: Osaka survives, Barty stunned

  • AAP / ausopen.com

The early signs are good for Naomi Osaka's Australian Open title defence after the world No.4 dug deep to win through to the Brisbane International quarterfinals.

Osaka proved too good for American Sofia Kenin, coming back to win 6-7(3) 6-3 6-1 at Pat Rafter Arena on Thursday night in a second-round match lasting almost two and a half hours.

The third seed will next play the winner of the clash between world No.9 Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands and Estonia's Anett Kontaveit.

"I heard a lot of people cheering for me so I just really wanted to go down fighting," Osaka said on court after her victory.

"Actually, it's really weird. In Australia everyone's really nice to me (laughter). I didn't mean like people are mean, but like, ever since I was young, I would get a lot of people watching my matches, and everyone's been super nice.

"Actually, last year, some people, like, 'Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi'd' me and I was like, oh my god (laughter). Does that make me an honourary Australian?"

However, top seed and world No.1 Ash Barty was not so lucky; in her first singles match of the new season on home soil following a banner 2019, she was stunned by qualifier Jennifer Brady.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Osaka was the overwhelming favourite before lining up against world No.14 Kenin, on Brisbane debut.

However the former world No.1 didn't have it all her own way, forced into a first set tiebreak in which Kenin rattled off six straight points to take it

But Japanese star found another gear to rattle off the next two sets in just over an hour to take her head-to-head record against the American to 2-1.

Kenin may not have the same profile as the popular Osaka but the American loomed as a dangerous opponent after claiming more hard-court match wins (38) than any other player on tour in 2019.

Osaka's power game eventually proved too much for Kenin; she smacked 18 aces to the American's three.

"It's really weird. In Australia everyone's really nice to me (laughter). I didn't mean like people are mean, but like, ever since I was young, I would get a lot of people watching my matches,"
Naomi Osaka

Earlier on Thursday, 23-year-old Barty couldn't penetrate Brady's serve as the world No.53 backed up her first-round win over Maria Sharapova to claim a 6-4 7-6(4) victory.

It marked Brady's first win over a top 10-ranked player and her first victory in three attempts against Barty.

Yet Barty does not feel the weight of expectation that comes with being the world No.1 is worrying her.

Her first appearance of the summer was eagerly anticipated by fans but the French Open champion was unfazed by the pressure of her status as the world's best.

"Oh, I think that's all come you from you guys (media), if I'm being completely honest," Barty said.

"It doesn't change the way that I practice. It doesn't change the way that my team and I prepare. It doesn't change me as a person.

"I think that you guys enjoy the fact that you get something to write about and you have something to talk about. Hopefully I make it interesting for you.

"But I don't look at it beyond that."

Brady definitely looked sharper than Barty given she was playing her fifth match of the season after three qualifying wins and Tuesday's win over Sharapova.

MORE: Sharapova awarded Australian Open 2020 wildcard

Thre Australian finished with 26 unforced errors but she was also keen to pay credit to Brady, who lost just one point on her first serve and didn't have to face a single break point.

"You can call it rust or you can just call it a bit of execution," Barty said.

"I'm a little bit disappointed in myself and a little bit disappointed with the execution. (But) you have to give credit where credit's due."

Brady will play Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals after the Czech fifth seed defeated Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova 6-3 6-2.

Fellow Czech and second seed Karolina Pliskova - the defending champion -- beat Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-1 in the match following Barty's at Pat Rafter Arena.