Barty wary of in-form Russian at the Open

·3-min read

Ash Barty is on guard, determined not to be ambushed by in-form Ekaterina Alexandrova in the Australian Open third round on Saturday.

Barty is chasing a place in the second week of her home grand slam for the fifth straight year.

But the world No.1 is suitably wary of Russia's top female player, a dangerous opponent she has never previously faced.

"I've never hit with her. That's a new one for me," Barty said.

The top seed is pinning her faith in trusted coach Craig Tyzzer to do some handy intelligence on the 29th seed who upended world No.2 Simona Halep and 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek at last week's Gippsland Trophy lead-up event.

"Time for 'Tyzz' and I to sit down and do our homework," Barty said.

"Tyzz is extremely diligent with all the work that he does. He's the best in the business. I'm very fortunate to have him in my corner.

"We'll kind of sit down and work from there, try and work out a game plan as best that we can.

"Then it's about the challenge of now having someone that I haven't played against that I can go out there and test myself against.

"She's obviously playing some very good tennis, had a great week last week as well. She's certainly got her foot firmly set in the season."

In tricky wind, Barty was scratchy in her second-round win over compatriot Daria Gavrilova on Thursday.

But the 24-year-old is unbeaten this year since her return from almost 12 months out of tennis.

Even with the Rod Laver Arena stands empty because of Victoria's five-day COVID lockdown starting from midnight Friday, Alexandrova is expecting a difficult time against Australia's big home hope.

"I don't want to expect anything. I just want to go on the court and enjoy my time on the court and just play my best and hope for the best," she said.

"She's a good player, tough to beat. She plays a lot of slices and goes to the net, and that's not particularly my favourite style to play against.

"But I'll try to adjust and we'll see."

The 26-year-old has been steadily climbing the ranks and says she is feeling more and more confident in the locker room - and on court - and is eager to make the most of her opportunities with the world's tennis tour so uncertain.

"I feel more pressure because we have a tournament here and I need to do my maximum because you never know what it's going to be like next week," Alexandrova said.

"But you understand because every tournament now is like the greatest opportunity we have and, honestly, it doesn't matter if you win or lose because every match is just great. Just enjoy the time."

The winner will play either Estonian Anett Kontaveit or American Shelby Rogers on Monday for a quarter-final berth.

Aussie men's No.1 Alex de Minaur is also in third-round action on Saturday, up against Italy's hot-headed 16th seed Fabio Fognini.

If he wins, de Minaur is likely to strike world No.2 Rafael Nadal in the last 16.

AUSSIES IN ACTION AT THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN ON SATURDAY (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING):

Women's singles, third round

1-Ash Barty v 29-Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS)

Men's singles, third round

21-Alex de Minaur v 16-Fabio Fognini (ITA)