Ash Barty made it to the round of 16 of the Australian Open for the fourth year in a row, but defending champion Naomi Osaka will not be joining her.
Rafael Nadal is now on center court, taking just eight minutes to lead Russia’s Karen Khachanov 3-0 in the first set and ultimately win him 6-3 as he continues to challenge for a record 21st title Big tournament.
Barty pitched in 58 straight games since beating mighty 30th-seeded Italian Camila Giorgi 6-2 6-3 in their third round clash at the Rod Laver Arena.
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The world No. 1 match was postponed after 18-year-old “Baby Nadal” Carlos Alcaraz returned from two sets to force the fifth match against No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini to end the day’s session, losing in a match tiebreak.
Osaka took the first set in her clash with American Amanda Anisimova but then showed troubling signs against her fellow power forward and failed to do her job on the tiebreaker in the third set, losing 4-6 6-3 7-6 (5) .
The Japanese woman scored two match points at a score of 5:4 in the final set, but could not convert any of them, and then was brought to a tie-break, where Anisimova quickly took the lead with a score of 3:0.
This mini-break lasted until the score was 7-4, when Osaka’s unforced error doubled the American’s lead before switching sides.
Another mistake brought Anisimova four match points, and she only had one, winning it with an ace.
Barty-Giorgi finally started at 8:00 p.m., with the Aussie going in her first two games with the serve, 50 straight games without breaking her serve.
Powerful all-or-nothing forward Georgie had three break points at 2-4, 0-40, but Barty masterfully deflected them all on her first serve before a brilliant second saved the fourth.
In the next game, Barty was back on top and Georgie saved one set point with a brave call to take the lead, but missed the second set point as the Australian took the first set point 6-2.
After both women pitched in the first five games of the second set, Barty earned two break points at 3-2 to take second place after yet another Georgie mistake and take the lead in a match she won’t give up.
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“She taunted Georgie in the sweetest way,” commentator Sam Smith told Nine.
Jelena Dokic added: “This is as good as she has ever looked.
“She takes the match out of everyone’s hands. She just deals with the opponents, the conditions, the pressure, the expectations, everything that’s going on here, she handles it so well.”
She and reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka could have a mouth-watering round of 16 clash if both win tonight, with Rafael Nadal also in center court’s second leg.
British tennis journalist Stuart Fraser ridiculed the way Barty was hyped before Friday’s match on Nine, the leading broadcaster.
He tweeted, “#1 in the world, our very own Ash Barty…” in reference to the notoriously tight bottom third.
At the end of the match, Nadal will face the dangerous 28th-placed Russian Karen Khachanov, with the Spaniard warning that his best years are yet to come as he returns to peak form from his 2021 injury.
Nadal’s path to becoming the first man to win 21 Grand Slams (he’s tied for 20 points with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, both absent) could see him face Olympic champion Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals.
But first he needs to deal with Khachanov – with the prospect of another Russian, last year’s semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev, who is waiting in the 1/8 finals.
“I think playing against Khachanov will be a big challenge,” Nadal said.
“I never think so far. Just stay focused on your day job, what’s coming, and that’s it. One moment in time, that’s all.”
– with AFP
AUSTRALIAN OPEN NIGHT 5 – ORDER OF PLAY
Night session from 19:00
Rod Laver Arena
 Ash Barty (Australia) def  Camila Giorgi (Italy) 6-2 6-3
 Karen Khachanov (Russia) vs  Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Show Court 1
Amanda Anisimova (USA) win  Naomi Osaka (Japan) 4-6 6-3 7-6 (5)
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) vs.  Aslan Karatsev (RUS)
John Kane Arena
 Alexander Zverev (GER) def Radu Albot (MDA) 6-3 6-4 6-4
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