AAP Tennis

Barty worried over Australia, not Open win

By AAP Newswire

Ever humble, Ashleigh Barty claimed she was more concerned about the country's bushfire crisis than winning the Australian Open after sweeping into the third round at Melbourne Park.

After a fighting three-set win in her opener, normal service resumed as Barty blasted past big-hitting world No.48 Polona Hercog 6-1 6-4 in barely an hour on Wednesday.

The top seed's victory set up a showdown on Friday with in-form Kazakh Elena Rybakina for a place in the last 16.

Champion in Hobart after finishing runner-up in the season opener in Shenzhen, Rybakina improved her impressive summer record to 11-1 with a 6-3 6-4 dispatch of Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen.

But as expectations continue to grow in Barty's bid to break Australia's 42-year Open title drought, the world No.1 played down the significance of winning the season-opening slam.

"Oh, look, tennis is a game. Honestly, there are so many bigger things going on in Australia right now," she said.

"I don't think anyone could care less if an Aussie wins it or not. First and foremost, it's about the safety and the well-being of Aussies all across the nation, of wildlife, everything.

"It's unfortunate it's been going on for a couple of months. So I'd prioritise the safety and kind of rebuilding kind of parts of our nation that have been destroyed over a tennis match any day of the week."

In reality, the French Open champion is carrying the hopes of the nation and did little to quell the hype with a stylish display on Rod Laver Arena.

Unlike Monday night when she dropped the first set against Lesia Tsurenko, Barty dominated Hercog from the off.

She broke the Slovenian twice to take the first set before Hercog put up more of a fight in the second, forcing the top seed to hold three times from 15-40 down.

"Obviously nice to be able to get out of those," Barty said.

"In those points my structure of points was a lot better. I probably should have done those earlier in the service games, but that was also something I did very well in the first set was get ahead in my own service games and then put the pressure straight back on my opponent.

"It's been another clean match today and very happy to get out of that one.

"Polona has the ability to play off the court. It was about making as many balls as I could and, once I got my opportunity, I could take it."

Should she beat Rybakina, Barty will play either her Open doubles partner Julia Goerges or American world No.19 Alison Riske in the fourth round.

Goerges upset 13th seed Petra Martic 4-6 6-3 7-5 earlier on Wednesday, while Riske - who ended Barty's 15-match European winning streak last year at Wimbledon - hammered Zhu Lin 6-3 6-1.