Naomi Osaka def. Ashleigh Barty match highlights (3R)
Naomi Osaka's win against Aussie girl Ashleigh Barty in the third round of the women's singles AO18.
That’s the last of the Australian women gone, then. Farewell to 18th-seeded Ash Barty, with apologies from Naomi Osaka. “I feel really happy, but also kind of sorry, because I know you guys really wanted her to win,’’ Japan’s fiercely exciting world No.72 told the crowd after eliminating Queenslander Barty 6-4 6-2.
“So just thank you very much because I’ve never played in an atmosphere like this. I’ve always wanted to play against an Australian player, because on TV it always seems really cool.’’
It was not, as scheduled, on Rod Laver’s arena, but on Margaret Court’s, having been switched late-afternoon following the lengthy women’s third round match between Simona Halep and Lauren Davis. Something both players agreed to was a move that suited Osaka just fine. “I just think there would have been a lot more people cheering for her (on RLA), so I’m actually really happy about this,'' she smiled. "I think this was good for me.’’
Slow starts have been a Barty calling card in her opening rounds, but so have fine finishes, first against the shrieking Aryna Sabalenka, and then the equally hard-hitting Camilla Giorgi. Osaka, though, has more dimensions to her game and a rocket serve in the mould of her idol Serena Williams that is far superior to both Europeans’.
The fact she broke Barty in the opening game set a pattern from which the match ultimately did not divert. Another break opened the second and, at 0-4, with service bombs raining down like blows to the local’s hopes, the war might not have been over, but the 73-minute battle was quickly being lost.
With 12 aces to one among 24 winners to 13 overall, it was the serve that was the telling factor. Osaka’s, that is. The US-based Japanese has thus surpassed her best result at Melbourne Park; Barty has equalled hers, but 1978 champion Chris O’Neil’s unwanted record as the last Australian woman to win her home slam lives on.
According to the comeback fairy's plotting of this tale, the high point of Barty's extraordinary return from a necessary, self-imposed 21-month exile would be at her home major, given that a runner-up effort at the Sydney International was enough to top off a preparation that had started all-too-briefly in the 21-year-old’s Brisbane backyard.
But then came Osaka. And, really: how is this 20-year-old ranked where she is? Barty will have her own questions, but would have needed to cool off enough to answer them, and we're not necessarily talking in ice-bath terms. The analysis will be from a renowned perfectionist who played at a level below what she expected, against an opponent whose offensive level was, admittedly, off the charts.
And, so, another women’s seed departs, in a half of the draw that has shed them like a balding man loses his last precious strands: reluctantly. Osaka will take her marvellously bouffant ponytail into a fourth round against the more understated but terribly heroic Halep, who arrived in the last 16 by a vastly different and more challenging route.