By Jonathan Barrett
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s top-ranked player Ashleigh Barty beat Wang Yafan 6-2 6-3 in a straight-forward affair on Wednesday, propelling the home country’s leading prospect into the third round.
The 15th-seeded Barty is the highest ranked local player — either man or woman — in the tournament and is known for her court craft and is an accomplished doubles player, while she has also played elite-level cricket.
“I felt like today was pretty clean, except for a couple of games where I got passive,” Barty told reporters.
The 22-year-old will play Greece’s Maria Sakkari in the third round.
She is one of a rapidly depleting list of local players at the tournament where Australians have had limited success despite boasting several Grand Slam singles champions like Samantha Stosur, Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter since the 1990s.
No Australian man or woman has won the singles title at their home Grand Slam since the 1970s. The last women’s finalist was Wendy Turnbull in 1980, while Hewitt lost the 2005 final to Russia’s Marat Safin.
An injury-hampered Nick Kyrgios crashed out of the Australian Open first round on Tuesday in straight sets, leaving further doubts as to whether the 23-year-old can realise his potential.
Australia’s top-ranked male prospect, Alex de Minaur, is scheduled to play his second round match against Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen later on Wednesday.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)