Top seed Barty primed for Melbourne quarter-final 'battle' with Kvitova
Top seed and home hope Ashleigh Barty is steeling herself for "a battle" against Petra Kvitova in the Australian Open quarter-finals having lost to her at the same stage 12 months ago.
The world number one survived a scare on Sunday before beating American 18th seed Alison Riske 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 to thrill Melbourne Park on Australia Day.
Six of the top 10 women's seeds went out in the third round, including holder Naomi Osaka and history-chasing Serena Williams, opening up the draw for Barty.
But first she must negotiate a tricky test against old foe Kvitova, the Czech seventh seed who beat her in straight sets last year.
The duo met five times last season with Kvitova winning the first two matches and Barty the next three.
"More experience, I've played Petra a few more times," the 23-year-old Barty said when asked what had changed since losing to two-time Grand Slam champion Kvitova in the 2019 quarter-finals. Kvitova lost in the final to Osaka.
"Tactically the last few times we've played Petra, we've had a small, small adjustment, small change," added Barty, without going into details.
"It's never an easy match. I think maybe all but one have gone to three sets. I'm looking forward to another battle against a quality opponent."
- Fatal double-fault -
Barty got in the party mood for Australia Day by searing into an early 3-0 lead against Riske at a capacity 15,000 Rod Laver Arena.
Barty, named Young Australian of the Year on Saturday, was broken by the 29-year-old but wasted little time in hitting back for a 4-2 lead.
Barty nailed the first set in 34 minutes on her second set point when Riske -- dumped out in the first round last year in Melbourne -- shot weakly into the net.
The American had beaten Barty in both their previous meetings, the latest coming at Wimbledon in the fourth round last year.
And the crowd fell quiet in the second set as Barty -- who once gave up tennis for professional cricket -- racked up 12 unforced errors.
Riske, whose previous best Grand Slam performance was reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year, wrapped up the second set in 27 minutes to leave Rod Laver Arena stunned.
They went to a decider and it was the French Open champion Barty who drew first blood, breaking for a 3-1 lead, but Riske broke back when the Australian planted a backhand wide.
Barty, unflappable in her title charge up until then, kept making errors.
She put a straightforward forehand long and Riske was level again at 4-4.
The Australian then gathered herself to hold serve. Riske was serving to stay in the tournament -- and she lost her nerve at the fatal moment, gifting victory with a double-fault on match point.
There is immense pressure on Barty to become the first Australian woman since Chris O'Neil in 1978 to win their home Grand Slam.
"Look, we're all human. We're not going to be 100 percent every single day," said Barty, managing great expectations. "We're not going to win every single time.
"All you can try and do is put your best foot forward, regardless of you're playing in Australia or all around the world."