Sports, Tennis

Osaka all smiles as she moves closer to Barty showdown


By AFP
Published : 19 Jan 2022 08:44 PM | Updated : 19 Jan 2022 08:44 PM

Naomi Osaka stepped up the defence of her Australian Open title with a composed beating of Madison Brengle on Wednesday to move a step closer to a blockbuster clash with top seed Ashleigh Barty.

The Japanese 13th seed raced through the first set but had to work hard in the second on Rod Laver Arena before eliminating the 54th-ranked American 6-0, 6-4 in 65 minutes to make the third round.

She will meet another unseeded American next after Amanda Anisimova upset Tokyo Olympic champion and 22nd seed Belinda Bencic 6-2, 7-5.

Anisimova is on a seven-match win streak after claiming the Melbourne Summer Set title in the build-up to the Grand Slam and should pose a sterner test.

But if Osaka can win she faces the prospect of a mouth-watering fourth round battle with world number one and Wimbledon champion Barty, who has dropped just three games so far and looks in ominous touch.

The pair could meet early due to Osaka's seeding -- her lowest at a Slam since the 2018 US Open -- after a truncated 2021 when she took time out to deal with mental health issues.

"I'm just trying to take it one day at a time," she said. "The goal for me is just to have fun and I'm really grateful to my team because I feel we are accomplishing that.

"I returned pretty well today," she added. "I've been really working on it during the off-season so glad it came in handy."