Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka remain on track for showdown at Australian Open

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Naomi Osaka was fired up against Madison Brengle (Andy Brownbill/AP) (AP)
Naomi Osaka was fired up against Madison Brengle (Andy Brownbill/AP) (AP)

Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka continued their progress towards a probable meeting in the last 16 at the Australian Open with second-round victories.

Ever since the draw was made, a date between the world number one and defending champion has been inked in for Sunday, and both have avoided drama so far.

Osaka briefly looked in a spot of bother against American Madison Brengle when she trailed by a break in the second set but she recomposed herself immediately to come through 6-0 6-4.

Barty has dropped only three games in four sets, following up a 6-0 6-1 victory over Lesia Tsurenko by seeing off qualifier Lucia Bronzetti 6-1 6-1 in just 52 minutes.

The Australian hero, who is a member of the Ngaragu people through her great-grandmother, was particularly proud to take to the court during the tournament’s inaugural First Nations Day.

Barty said: “It was really cool. It was nice for me to be a part of it in a way that I feel most comfortable I suppose. Out on the tennis court is how I express myself as an athlete, it’s how I’m able to express myself as a person as well.

“On a day we’re bringing cultures together, bringing people together, it was really nice for me to go out and enjoy that.

“I just met a few of the kids that have come down from Alice Springs and all around Australia, which is amazing for them to come and experience the Australian Open on a really special day for our culture and our heritage.”

Barty will expect to face a tougher test next against big-hitting Italian Camila Giorgi while Osaka could find life very tricky against 20-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, who has hit top form again in Australia.

A junior prodigy, Anisimova reached the fourth round here and the French Open semi-finals as a 17-year-old but has understandably struggled since the death of her father and coach Konstantin later in 2019.

She began this season with a first title for nearly three years in the WTA event at Melbourne Park and scored a notable win on Wednesday, knocking out 22nd seed and Olympic champion Belinda Bencic 6-2 7-5.

Anisimova said of meeting Osaka: “I’ve been wanting to play her for a while. I’ll enjoy it, I’ll enjoy the atmosphere. She’s an amazing player, so I’ll look forward to that.”

It was a good day all round for the favourites, with in-form duo Paula Badosa and Barbora Krejcikova easing through to round three.

Fourth seed Krejcikova defeated highly rated 20-year-old Chinese Wang Xiyu 6-2 6-3 while eighth seed Badosa powered to a 6-0 6-3 victory over Martina Trevisan.

Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka has begun strongly in Melbourne and saw off Jil Teichmann 6-1 6-2 to set up an intriguing clash with 15th seed Elina Svitolina.

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