Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka continued their ruthless takedowns of the Melbourne draw as both recorded crushing victories in the Australian Open second round.
World number one Barty beat qualifier Lucia Bronzetti 6-1 6-1 in just 52 minutes to set up a clash with Camila Georgi.
It was a routine performance for the Australian, who nonchalantly dominated the baseline exchanges –– utilising her imperious back-hand slice combined with her top-spin heavy forehand.
Bronzetti won just two games in the end –– one more than Lesia Tsurenko had managed in the opener.
Barty is unbeaten so far in 2022 and already claimed her first title of the year at the Adelaide International a fortnight ago.
On this evidence, it’s easy to see why the 25-year-old is the heavy favourite to win her first Australian Open.
Standing in her way, however, is defending champion Naomi Osaka.
The four-time major winner endured a difficult 2021 season and was open in her struggles with mental health.
After taking a four-month break from tennis after the US Open, the Japanese star returned at the start of this year and has seemingly rediscovered her supreme winning mentality.
Like Barty, the 24-year-old is unbeaten in 2022 and took little time in dispatching America’s Madison Brengle 6-0 6-3 today.
The former world number one is renowned for her powerful groundstrokes and even Andy Murray took to social media to laud Osaka’s ability.
“Anyone hit the ball cleaner from the baseline than Naomi Osaka,” he said on Twitter.
Despite the praise, Osaka admitted in her on-court interview that she was trying not to put pressure on herself.
“Honestly, I’m trying not to do that. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I feel like if I compare myself to the past, I’ll never be satisfied. I’m trying to take it one day at a time.”
Yet, given her two matches in the competition so far, it’s hard to look past Osaka as a genuine contender for the title.
With Osaka and Barty now emerging as two of the tournament favourites, the prospect of the pair meeting in round four now looks all the more enticing.
Because of Osaka’s hiatus last year, her ranking has fallen drastically and she was only seeded 13th for the event.
And the two have been drawn to battle it out in the last 16, should they both win their next match.
It’s a match that could well be seen as a preliminary final. Both Barty and Osaka don’t look like losing at the moment and it seems the only people who could end these win streaks are each other.
On paper right now, it’s a tough one to call. Barty is the most consistent player in the world and will have the crowd’s support in the Rod Laver Arena.
However, Osaka has an outstanding record in Melbourne and is the better hard court player of the two.
First up though, the two players must win their third-round ties. Osaka faces a tricky match against the in-form Amanda Anisimova, who is yet to lose this year. Barty will play 30th seed Camila Giorgi.
But, If both do come through their respective matches then all signs point towards one of the biggest fourth-round matches in Grand Slam history.