Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka continued their progress towards a probable meeting in the last 16 at the Australian Open with second-round victories.
Ever since the draw was made, a date between the world number one and defending champion has been inked in for Sunday, and both have avoided drama so far.
Osaka briefly looked in a spot of bother against American Madison Brengle when she trailed by a break in the second set but she recomposed herself immediately to come through 6-0 6-4.
Barty has dropped only three games in four sets, following up a 6-0 6-1 victory over Lesia Tsurenko by seeing off qualifier Lucia Bronzetti 6-1 6-1 in just 52 minutes.
The Australian hero, who is a member of the Ngaragu people through her great-grandmother, was particularly proud to take to the court during the tournament’s inaugural First Nations Day.
Barty said: “It was really cool. It was nice for me to be a part of it in a way that I feel most comfortable I suppose. Out on the tennis court is how I express myself as an athlete, it’s how I’m able to express myself as a person as well.
“On a day we’re bringing cultures together, bringing people together, it was really nice for me to go out and enjoy that.
“I just met a few of the kids that have come down from Alice Springs and all around Australia, which is amazing for them to come and experience the Australian Open on a really special day for our culture and our heritage.”
Barty will expect to face a tougher test next against big-hitting Italian Camila Giorgi while Osaka could find life very tricky against 20-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, who has hit top form again in Australia.
A junior prodigy, Anisimova reached the fourth round here and the French Open semi-finals as a 17-year-old but has understandably struggled since the death of her father and coach Konstantin later in 2019.
She began this season with a first title for nearly three years in the WTA event at Melbourne Park and scored a notable win on Wednesday, knocking out 22nd seed and Olympic champion Belinda Bencic 6-2 7-5.
Anisimova said of meeting Osaka: “I’ve been wanting to play her for a while. I’ll enjoy it, I’ll enjoy the atmosphere. She’s an amazing player, so I’ll look forward to that.”
It was a good day all round for the favourites, with in-form duo Paula Badosa and Barbora Krejcikova easing through to round three.
Fourth seed Krejcikova defeated highly rated 20-year-old Chinese Wang Xiyu 6-2 6-3 while eighth seed Badosa powered to a 6-0 6-3 victory over Martina Trevisan.
Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka has begun strongly in Melbourne and saw off Jil Teichmann 6-1 6-2 to set up an intriguing clash with 15th seed Elina Svitolina.
Women’s second-round results
(24) Victoria Azarenka (Blr) bt Jil Belen Teichmann (Swi) 6-1 6-2, Nuria Parrizas-Diaz (Esp) bt Maryna Zanevska (Bel) w/o, (26) Jelena Ostapenko (Lat) bt Alison Riske (USA) 4-6 6-2 6-4, (15) Elina Svitolina (Ukr) bt Harmony Tan (Fra) 6-3 5-7 5-1 ret, (8) Paula Badosa Gibert (Esp) bt Martina Trevisan (Ita) 6-0 6-3, Amanda Anisimova (USA) bt (22) Belinda Bencic (Swi) 6-2 7-5, Madison Keys (USA) bt Jaqueline Adina Cristian (Rom) 6-2 7-5, (5) Maria Sakkari (Gre) bt Qinwen Zheng (Chn) 6-1 6-4, (28) Veronika Kudermetova (Rus) bt Elena Gabriela Ruse (Rom) 6-2 7-5, (30) Camila Giorgi (Ita) bt Tereza Martincova (Cze) 6-2 7-6 (7-2), Qiang Wang (Chn) bt Alison Van Uytvanck (Bel) 2-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-3, (4) Barbora Krejcikova (Cze) bt Xiyu Wang (Chn) 6-2 6-3, (21) Jessica Pegula (USA) bt Bernarda Pera (USA) 6-4 6-4, (1) Ashleigh Barty (Aus) bt Lucia Bronzetti (Ita) 6-1 6-1, (13) Naomi Osaka (Jpn) bt Madison Brengle (USA) 6-0 6-4, Marta Kostyuk (Ukr) bt (32) Sara Sorribes Tormo (Esp) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 .