PARIS (Reuters) – Ash Barty has reached the last 16 of the French Open for the first time without dropping a set along the way and, even if the Australian says she is not looking too far ahead, a pathway deep into the second week opened up for her on Saturday.
The 23-year-old, who has risen to eighth in the world on the back of a sparkling recent run of form, breezed past German Andrea Petkovic 6-3 6-1 in the third round at Roland Garros.
Barty would have expected the win to earn her a meeting with Serena Williams in the fourth round and, if she somehow managed to negotiate that formidable hurdle, a date with world number one Naomi Osaka in the quarter-finals.
Williams, though, was stunned by fellow American Sofia Kenin and Osaka’s 16-match winning streak in Grand Slam tournaments came to an end in straight sets at the hands of Katerina Siniakova on the red Paris clay.
Although her compatriots will be hoping she can end a 46-year singles title drought for Australian women at the French Open, Barty is not looking any further ahead than her next session on the practice courts.
“For me it’s easy not to look ahead,” Barty said. “Obviously there’s talk and it’s unavoidable to hear what else is happening around the draw.
“But I can’t control any of that. I can only control how I prepare, how I play, and ultimately how we go about my next match.”
That match will now be against Kenin and Barty is expecting a battle as tough as if she had been facing 23-times Grand Slam singles champion Williams.
“(Sofia) is an incredible competitor, she really is” Barty said.
“She certainly respects every opponent but doesn’t play their reputation. She plays them just on the other side of the net, and that’s one of her best attributes.
“So I think it’s going to be an extremely tough match come Monday.
Barty is happy with the way she played in the first week but thinks her progress has not been as comfortable as the results might suggest.
“When I’ve been able to execute my game, I’ve been able to win some matches in business-like fashion, but they’re certainly not easy matches, that’s for sure,” Barty said.
“I feel like I’m playing well and being able to execute to make the scorelines look a little easier than the match actually is.”
(Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)