Barty soars in Sydney to book Halep test

Published by AAP

In-form Ash Barty joined compatriots Priscilla Hon and Sam Stosur in the Sydney International second round with a straight sets victory over Jelena Ostapenko.

Ash Barty joined a quartet of home success at the Sydney International with a 6-3 6-3 triumph over Jelena Ostapenko to earn a second-round clash with world No.1 Simona Halep.

The victory was in-form Barty’s third win from four outings this summer, her lone defeat so far coming at the hands of world No.2 and reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber at last week’s Hopman Cup in Perth.

Kerber advanced to the Sydney International quarters with a hard-fought win over Italy’s Camila Giorgi, during which she recovered from a break down in the second set to reel off the final five games of the match.

Barty’s Queenslander Priscilla Hon advanced to the Sydney last 16 alongside home wins for John Millman and Jordan Thompson in the men’s draw.

Barty, 22, declared that her Australian Open preparation has been perfect, regardless of Wednesday’s outcome facing Halep.

“I feel like I have played enough matches now. I’m ready, feel pretty good on the court. There’s certainly no better challenge than coming up against Simona right before a slam,” said Barty, having fallen to the Roland Garros champion in both of their previous encounters.

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“It’s kind of the perfect opportunity for me to go out there and play freely and try a few different things and get ready as best that I can to try and win that match.

“Win or lose today, I had no stress and no worries that I’d be good to go for Melbourne.”

Hon has vindicated her Australian Open wildcard, continuing her charge from qualifying with a 6-3 7-6 (4) first-round win over German Tatjana Maria.

The straight-sets victory over the world No.71 was Hon’s third straight win over a higher-ranked opponent in the Australian Open lead-up event.

Her reward, as well as an important rankings boost from her current standing of No.161, is an inviting second-round meeting with Belarusian qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who was a surprise 6-1 6-4 winner over Russian eighth seed Daria Kasatkina.

In the men’s event, and an ailing John Millman staged a mighty fightback to reach the second round with a pulsating win over rising American Frances Tiafoe.

Millman revealed he considered withdrawing after waking up from Monday night’s Fast4 exhibition appearance alongside Nick Kyrgios with the flu before outlasting Tiafoe 4-6 7-4(5) 7-5 in a two-hour, 39-minute centre-court thriller.

“It was a tough decision to come out today. I was actually pretty crook,” he said. “I woke up this morning with the flu and (was) really dizzy out there.

“But any chance to play at home in Australia, I think you’ve gotta take it, so I tried to come out here and give it everything.”

Fellow Aussie Jordan Thompson also advanced on home soil, earning a quarterfinal ticket with a 3-6 7-6(5) 6-0 comeback.

Returning to the women’s draw and fifth seed Petra Kvitova, the 2015 Sydney champion, also progressed to the last 16 with a 6-1 7-5 win over rising Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.

Meanwhile, 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens staged a great escape against Russian qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova to avoid the carnage.

Alexandrova served for the match at 5-3 in the second set before the American fourth seed rallied to pull out a 0-6 7-6 (3) 7-6 (3) win.

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