SYDNEY, Australia - Ashleigh Barty eased through her quarterfinal clash against Barbora Strycova in straight sets, setting up an all-Australian battle against Daria Gavrilova.
The top-ranked Aussie was in command from the start and played a near-shutout second set to take the 6-3, 6-2 victory in just over an hour.
"For me, it was about coming here and playing with freedom," she said after her latest success, the second in three matches she has achieved over her opponent.
"It's about having a complete game and not having holes people can exploit."
In the clash between the two highest-ranked players left in Sydney, it was Barty who got off to the quicker start, bringing up break points straightaway against the Strycova serve before converting to take a 4-2 lead. The lone break was enough for the set; she earned the set point with a daring dropshot and closed it out with a timely ace.
Barty played imperious tennis in the second set to reel off five straight games, breaking three times in a row to build up a daunting 5-0 lead. But she faced her biggest challenge of the match as she struggled to get over the finish line; with her back against the wall, Strycova seemed to swing more freely and managed her first break of the match to stay alive in the contest, consolidating to cut down on the Aussie’s lead.
It wasn’t enough to turn it around though, as Barty closed it out on the second time of asking, wrapping up the match after 65 minutes on court.
Barty far outhit the lackluster Strycova with 26 winners to the Czech’s seven, despite striking 22 unforced errors to her rival's 19. This helped her create more chances - she converted on half of the eight break points she created, but Barty’s strong serving ensured Strycova could only take advantage of one.
The victory gives Sydney fans an extra treat, as Barty advances to take on countrywoman Daria Gavrilova. Gavrilova enjoyed a day off on Thursday; she was scheduled to play against Garbiñe Muguruza but received a walkover when the Spaniard was forced to retire due to a right thigh injury.
"I know Dasha very well, so hopefully we'll have a good one tomorrow," she said.
"We'll have an all-Aussie semi-final, which is awesome."
The winner of that clash will face either former WTA World No.1 Angelique Kerber or qualifier Camila Giorgi in the final.