Jelena Dokic backing Ash Barty to win Open despite Osaka collision course

Welcome to Wide World of Sports’ coverage of day three of the Australian Open, with a total of 29 Aussies in action today, with first-round men’s and women’s doubles matches also taking place on a jam-packed day.

Australian wildcard Aleksandar Vukic will aim to keep his glory run going when he plays his second round match against 32-year-old Radu Albot, who has been ranked as high as No.39.

Ash Barty’s match will be the second on Rod Laver Arena today, where she will look to continue her winning streak against Italian world No.145 Lucia Bronzetti.

The 23-year-old Italian qualifier is contesting her first Grand Slam main draw and seeking a career-first top-50 win. Rafael Nadal will follow Barty’s match, where the Spaniard will take on German Yannick Hanfmann.

The night session on Rod Laver Arena will see Naomi Osaka play American Madison Brengle, followed by Aussie John Millman taking on Alexander Zverev.

No doubt Barty will keep one eye on Osaka’s progression considering she’s likely to face the world No.2 in the coming rounds.

Despite being on a collision course to play the Japan star earlier than she would have hoped, Australian tennis great Jelena Dokic is still backing Barty to handle the pressure of favouritism and come through the tournament as champion.

“I feel like this is the best she’s looked, the fittest she’s looked. I love the way that she’s been playing, she looks extremely happy as well which is always great,” Dokic said on Nine’s The Morning Serve.

Dokic pointed out that Barty has had plenty of rest, cutting her season short in 2021 after the US Open.

“I think it’s been really good for her, she had time to do a good off-season and for me, I definitely feel like this is her year,” she said.

“She’s my favourite to win this year.

“Assuming she beats qualifier Lucia Bronzetti today, Barty will have to potentially navigate past Camili Giorgi in the third round, and Naomi Osaka in the fourth, in what is shaping up as a tricky path for the Australian.

“It’s a really, really tough section but for me this is the best she’s looked, and I feel like she’s actually improved her game since last year, if that was even possible.”

There’s undoubtedly a lot of pressure and expectation on Barty to win her home slam, but Dokic is backing her countrywoman to rise to the challenge.

“There’s no doubt there’s always extra pressure here, extra nerves – and it will be for her as well no matter how strong she is and no matter how well she deals with pressure,” Dokic said.

“She’s using it now, in a positive way. She’s had a couple of Australian Opens where she’s played under pressure and that experience will help her a lot, especially with the tough draw she has.”

“I think she can thrive on that pressure and embrace it, actually.”

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