Barty beats Rogers to storm into Australian Open quarters

Melbourne (AFP) –


World number one Ashleigh Barty's defensive mastery flummoxed big-hitting Shelby Rogers on Monday as she stormed into the Australian Open quarter-finals to heighten hopes of a first home winner in 43 years.

The Australian was ruthless in her 6-3, 6-4 victory over the in-form Rogers in one hour and 11 minutes in the fourth round at a crowd-less Rod Laver Arena.

Barty, who is aiming to become the first Australian champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978, plays 25th seed Karolina Muchova in the quarter-finals after the Czech beat 18th seed Elise Mertens 7-6 (7/5), 7-5.

"I love playing at home and sharing this with my friends and family," said Barty, who hit 21 winners.

"She's a player that can take the game away from you very quickly, so I needed my running shoes on," she said of Rogers, the world number 57.

"I served well and I tried to be in control of as many points as I could."

The former French Open champion again appeared unfazed by the absence of home support in the stands, with fans barred until at least Thursday due to Melbourne's snap, five-day lockdown.

Having been pushed to the brink by Rogers just last week in the Yarra Valley Classic quarter-finals, an aggressive Barty stepped up the intensity with strong serving and blunted the American's groundstrokes with a slew of brilliant retrievals.

Barty, who has been carrying a niggle to her heavily strapped left thigh, moved smoothly and counter-attacked superbly to thwart Rogers' aggressive approach with an early break as the American dropped her first set of the tournament.

It was much the same in the second set with Barty using canny slices to toy with 28-year-old Rogers, who was aiming for her third Grand Slam quarter-final.

Barty let slip two match points on serve in the seventh game but calmly closed it out on her next service opportunity.

Australian expectations are rising for Barty, whose side of the draw has opened up with the early exits of defending champion Sofia Kenin, world number five Elina Svitolina and world number six Karolina Pliskova.

American Jennifer Brady is the next highest seed in Barty's bracket at 22.

Barty, 24, reached the quarter-final of her home Slam for the third straight year.