Ash Barty joked about defecting to AFLW and discussed the "very strange" feeling of playing without a crowd during another brilliant interview with former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua on Saturday night.
In her first match since Victoria's COVID restrictions ensured at least a temporary halt on crowds attending the Australian Open, Barty cruised into the fourth round with a 6-2 6-4 win over Ekaterina Alexandrova.
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Chatting post-match to Dellacqua in her on-court interview, Barty opened up about the "strange" new normal of playing in empty arenas at Melbourne Park.
Dellacqua quipped "this is nice and intimate", given she and Barty were among just a handful of people in Margaret Court Arena.
While many players are driven by vocal support, particularly when it comes from a partisan home crowd, Barty admitted while "it may be a little bit rude" to supporters, she loved the aural advantage of being able to hear the sound of the ball.
She said the new conditions further helped her process data during a match - a worry for her opponents given the World No.1 is already regarded as one of the best thinkers on tour.
"It's kind of a way that you can narrow your focus in to listen to the sound of the ball," she said.
"I find it a way where I can listen to the spin the opponent is hitting on the ball, the pace it's coming.
"It's just another way for me to be able to absorb the information quickly, to then adjust and change what I need to in order to try and then put the ball in the position that I want to."
Ash Barty and Casey Dellacqua to AFLW?
Fans have become accustomed to Barty's post-match chats with Dellacqua, who has now retired from tennis and works for Channel Nine during the Australian Open.
The two are great mates and played in four grand slam doubles finals together.
So it was no surprise that Barty got a bit cheeky when asked by Dellacqua about what sport she'd play if she didn't play tennis.
“I thought it was our deal, we’re going to AFLW," Barty told Dellacqua.
"It’s ABCD, we come as a package and I know we will be going to the 'Tiges' (Richmond Tigers) that is for sure.
"You can’t go to Carlton. You have to come to the Tiges with me."
Dellacqua said: “I need to get out there and start practising some kicking but you are good. I would love to do that one day.”
With crowds not allowed back until at least Thursday, Barty will perhaps get at least another two chances to sharpen her ball-listening skills, starting when she takes on American Shelby Rogers in the round of 16.
On Saturday night on Margaret Court Arena, Barty came back from breaks down in both sets but still appeared largely in command throughout the match.
Alexandrova broke the Australian in the opening game with aggressive groundstrokes and a willingness to get to the net but after holding her own serve things quickly went south for the 29th seed.
The World No.1 won seven games on the hop and looked for a quick finish before Alexandrova made things interesting with another break and a 4-2 lead in the second set.
But that proved just as fleeting as the Russian's first-set stand, with the Queenslander polishing off the next four games to take the match.
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