Ash Barty is one victory away from a blockbuster clash with reigning champion Naomi Osaka — but she has one last hurdle to jump.
Ash Barty is the main attraction at the Australian Open tonight as she faces a tough third round clash against Camila Giorgi.
Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka and Alexander Zverev are also ones to watch on day five at Melbourne Park.
Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios lost in four sets to Daniil Medvedev on Thursday night before the Russian took aim at the Rod Laver Arena crowd, who he accused of having a “low IQ”.
Italian model standing in Ash Barty’s way
World No. 1 Ash Barty is one victory away from a potential blockbuster clash with reigning champion Naomi Osaka — but she has one last hurdle to jump.
Italy’s Camila Giorgi stands in her way, and the No. 30 seed poses a considerably larger threat than Barty’s opponents from the first two rounds at Melbourne Park.
Giorgi, who also works as a lingerie model, won last year’s Canadian Open and reached the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics.
“She has the ability to hold the baseline, to control the centre of the court, be super, super aggressive off her serve and first shot, particularly off her return,” Barty told reporters on Wednesday.
“It’s going to be a match where I’m going to have to serve well, bring in variety, make sure I can cover the court, neutralise the best that I can. She has the ability to hit you off the court without realising it’s happening.
“I think it’s going to be another match with some fresh challenges. But having played her before, she kind of knows my game, I kind of know hers. It’s about going out there and trying to do it as good as I can.”
Due to the previous match on Rod Laver Arena going to a fifth set tiebreaker, the Barty clash was pushed back approximately 45 minutes.
Barty was cool, calm and collected when the first set got underway, and the Queenslander immediately took an early lead by breaking serve and going up 2-0, assisted by a pair of double faults from Giorgi.
Soon after, Barty secured her 50th consecutive service game.
“Does she remember the last time she got broken?” American tennis great Jim Courier asked on Channel 9. “It’s been a long time.”
Day five schedule
Rod Laver Arena
From 11am:  Victoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated  Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-0 6-2
 Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated  Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 2-6 6-4 6-4
 Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated  Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) 6-2 7-6 4-6 2-6 7-6
From 7pm:  Ash Barty (AUS) vs  Camila Giorgi (ITA)
 Karen Khachanov (RUS) vs  Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Margaret Court Arena
From 11am:  Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated Nuria Parrizas Diaz (ESP) 7-6 6-2
 Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated Marta Kostyuk (UKR) 6-2 5-7 6-4
 Denis Shapovalov (CAN) defeated  Reilly Opelka (USA) 7-6 4-6 6-3 6-4
From 7pm: Amanda Anisimova (USA) vs  Naomi Osaka (JPN)
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) vs  Aslan Karatsev (RUS)
John Cain Arena
Not before 1pm:  Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated  Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-4 6-1
Not before 4pm:  Alexander Zverev (GER) vs Radu Albot (MDA)
Aussie duo pull off massive upset
Kia Arena was packed to the rafters as Aussies Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis toppled No. 1 seeds Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.
Mektic and Pavic won nine titles last year, also clincing gold at the Tokyo Olympics — but they have been bettered by Kyrgios and Kokkinakis in straight sets 7-6 6-3.
In a very Australian move during the first set, one man has demanded the crowd’s attention to do a shoey (drink a beer from his shoe). The crowd was more than eager to get behind him and cheer him on.
Near the end of the first set, Kyrgios hit Mektic during a shot and quickly apologised but Mektic didn’t even react.
4th seed rages over toilet drama
Fourth seed Barbora Krejcikova has had to fight back to beat 26th seed Jelana Ostapenko in a tight battle to avoid being added to the seeded scrapheap.
While fifth seed Maria Sakkari and 24th seed Victoria Azarenka breezed through their matches, Krejcikova was immediately on the back foot, losing the first set 6-2.
But the Czech star and 2021 French Open champion bounced back, slogging out a hard four 2-6 6-4 6-4 win.
It wasn’t all her own way in the latter sets as Krejcikova copped a time violation after taking an eight-minute toilet break between the sets.
The issue came after last year’s US Open when Stefanos Tsitsipas took long breaks after every time he lost a set.
It saw the rule changed, only allowing three minute breaks to go to the toilet between sets.
When she came back Krejcikova tried to explain it, saying “you know why? Because I broke my necklace. I had to pick it up.
“And I’m getting a time violation. What’s next?”
It was just a warning so it didn’t cost her any points.
Commentator Chanda Rubin said the broken necklace “shouldn’t be a reason for more time”.
She was the first player at this tournament to cop a violation, although it wasn’t too costly as it was her first for the match.
But it’s not the first time that Krejcikova has been part of a drama like this.
At the 2021 US Open, Krejcikova was labelled “unprofessional by Garbine Muguruza at 5-6 in the second set after winning the first and then leaving the court for nine minutes for treatment.
And as the temperatures have risen, so have the tempers.
American Reilly Opelka was also fuming against Canadian Denis Shapovalov after Greek chair umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore handed him a time violation for taking too long to serve at 3-all in the first set.
“You’ve been on me since the second I walked out on the court. Literally,” a furious Opelka told the chair umpire.
“She’s cooked. Literally. I brought my pink bag and she’s like, ‘Oh no, turn around.”
To make matters worse, he lost the following point and the first set.
$220k payday shocks Aussie on live TV
There’s a reason Australia is falling for 24-year-old tennis gun Maddison Inglis — the girl from WA is just so down to earth.
The wildcard has cruised into the third round of the Australian Open and will play Kaia Kanepi tomorrow in a bid to continue her outstanding run in the tournament.
And with more rounds comes more prizemoney.
It’s an expensive profession to be a pro tennis player but grand slams definitely help fund career.
A first round exit sees players earn $103,000, but it quickly goes up the deeper you go.
A third round exit is worth $221,000, which can help set up a year, and a career.
But Australia’s newest tennis star was unaware of the prizemoney, until she was made aware mid interview on Channel 9.
“I didn’t know that. Wow that’s huge,” she said before trying to finish her sentence while addressing the prize money again.
“Sorry I didn’t know that at all,” she added. “Going into the matches I didn’t think about the money at all, which is a good thing.
“Leading into 2022 I need to find an external coach and that can be very expensive. And this takes a lot of stress off me having that money to start the year. Hopefully I’ll put it towards my tennis.”
Don’t change Maddy!
‘Beautiful’: Star’s almost perfect tribute
Victoria Azarenka was brilliant in her 6-0 6-2 demolition of 15th seed Elina Svitolina and had a great post-match interview as well.
The 24th seed paid tribute to the wheelchair tennis stars, including Australia’s own Dylan Alcott, and had some lovely words.
Only she didn’t quite get the 15-time grand slam champion’s name right.
“I just want to give a shout out to Dylan Scott, because he has been my inspiration for a while,” she said.
“I’m so proud how much involvement there is for him in Australia and those guys, the wheelchair tennis, deserve so much recognition. I just hope you guys come out and watch them because they are way better than us. That’s just my opinion. And I know it’s his last tournament and I can’t wait to see what he does next because he’s such an amazing personality, what a story, the resilience, the determination, he inspires me a lot.”
Alcott, who is going for his eighth straight Australian Open title, will retire from tennis after this years’ Australian Open.
Alcott quickly responded, tweeting: “@vika7 this made me cry! You are such a legend. Appreciate your words so much”.
However, he reposted his response a short while later.
‘Not good’: 15th seed crashes out in flames
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has made minced meat of 15th seed Elina Svitolina in a scary statement to the Australian Open.
The 24th seed was never troubled against the Ukrainian, powering to a thumping 6-0 6-2 victory in just under over an hour, thanks only to a prolonged final service game which went to seven deuces.
It’s the fifth time the pair have ever met and Azarenka has a perfect record in the meetings.
But after four seeds in Garbine Muguruza (3rd), Anett Kontaveit (6th), Elena Rybakina (12th) and Emma Raducanu (17th) seed all crashed out on a wild day four, it just continue the rot for the higher seeds.
The first set was particularly brutal as Azarenka won 100 per cent of her points on first serve, wiping the floor with her opponent in no time.
‘Inexcusable’: TV disaster cops more flak
American TV network ESPN has come under fire for its coverage of the Australian Open and the hits kept coming on Friday.
Respected NFL writer Judy Battista said on Twitter she has “tried to figure out how to watch every day” but has had “no luck so far”.
Respected tennis insider Jon Wertheim, who was critical of ESPN on Thursday, tweeted: “When a (very fine) reporter for a designated sports network can’t find the coverage, what hope is there for a casual fan? 2022 is lost but @AustralianOpen cannot let this happen going forward.”
Tennis writer Matthew Willis responded: “It’s inexcusable. This stuff has such a long tail impact on tennis growth too, imagine the butterfly effect of that many fans (some of which are new and maybe fleeting to the sport) not being able to watch and deciding to do something else instead.”
Star’s grunting ‘100 per cent unnecessary’
Australian tennis strategist Craig O’Shannessy says world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka — who survived a serving meltdown to progress to the third round — would be wise to ease off the grunting.
O’Shannessy, who has previously worked with Novak Djokovic, encouraged Sabalenka to make less noise and improve her game.
“Aryna #Sabalenka would be a better player in every way possible if she ditched the excessive grunting when hitting the ball. She already has the power. The noise at contact is 100% unnecessary,” he tweeted.
“I bet if Aryna #Sabalenka played some practice sets & experimented with making as little noise as possible at contact, she would uncover an improved, happier version of her game. It would also help her control her emotions. It’s a no-brainer, really.”
Star was Covid-positive when he arrived in Australia
Russian star Andrey Rublev has revealed he was Covid-positive when he flew to Australia.
The world No. 6 was allowed into the country amid fears his grand slam may have been impacted.
“I am not being tested personally now because I just got over the coronavirus,” he said.
“When I flew to Australia, I was still positive, but the level of Covid SS, as it is called, I will not lie, it was very low and not dangerous.
“I was allowed to enter the country. In addition, I spent more than 10 days in quarantine.”
He didn’t break any rules and all protocols were followed. It was suspected his positive test was the result of “viral shedding”.
Kyrgios detail catches attention of fans
Nick Kyrgios has been accused of not trying in the past but you couldn’t question his effort during a hard-fought loss to Daniil Medvedev in round two.
The Aussie was putting in the hard yards, leading some eagle-eyed fans to question if some hair dye was running onto his forehead — likening him to former Donald Trump confidante Rudy Giuliani.
Football reporter James Dodd tweeted: “Is that a bit of ‘Just For Men’ dribbling down Kyrgios’ forehead?”
Former AFL player Jason Gram wrote: “Kyrgios got a little bit of paint on top?”
Day five preview
Top seed Ash Barty and defending women’s champion Naomi Osaka can set up a mouth-watering last-16 clash as the Australian Open reaches the third round, with Rafael Nadal also in action as he targets a 21st Slam title.
World number one Barty, who has been in dominant form in 2022, faces the experienced Italian 30th seed Camila Giorgi to begin the night session on Rod Laver Arena.
Osaka, who won at Melbourne Park in 2019 and 2021, will simultaneously be playing Amanda Anisimova on the adjacent Margaret Court Arena.
Nadal faces dangerous Russian 28th seed Karen Khachanov in the late match, with the Spaniard warning that his best is still to come as he works his way back to peak form after an injury-hit 2021.
Barty, chasing a first title at her home Slam, has barely broken sweat so far, dropping only three games in two matches.
The Wimbledon champion won the warm-up Adelaide International with a serve that was untouchable, and it has been flawless so far in Melbourne as well.
“Just continually trying to make it a weapon,” she said of her serve, which has not been broken for 48 straight games stretching over five matches.
“I’m not the biggest girl out there, but I know I’ve got a sound technique and I know if I can get my rhythm right and use it effectively, it can be a weapon.”
Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka says she has been taking unlikely inspiration during the first Slam of the year from maverick Australian Nick Kyrgios and Brit Andy Murray, who tweeted that he was enjoying watching her.
“Definitely means a lot. For me it was a really cool moment,” she said of Murray’s message.
Nadal’s path to become the first man to win 21 Grand Slams — he is tied on 20 with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic who are both absent — could see him meet Olympic champion Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals.
But first he needs to dispatch Khachanov — with the prospect of another Russian, last year’s semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev, awaiting in the last 16.
“I think playing against Khachanov is going to be a big challenge,” said Nadal, who said he was not looking beyond Friday’s match.
“I never think that far. Just staying focused on my daily work, on what’s coming, and that’s it. One moment in time, that’s it.”
Third seed Zverev faces Moldovan qualifier Radu Albot out on “party court” John Cain Arena, while Italian seventh seed Matteo Berrettini takes on Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz in the men’s draw.
The women’s action on Rod Laver begins with Belarusian former two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka taking on Ukrainian 15th seed Elina Svitolina.
They will be followed by the French Open champion and fourth seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic against Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko.