New Australian Open favourite Ashleigh Barty has warned her rivals to bring their A-game if they wish to stop her from breaking the country's 42-year title drought.
As seven-times champion Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka bombed out on Friday, Barty delivered her most impressive performance of the summer to roar into the fourth round with a steely 6-3 6-2 win over big-hitting youngster Elena Rybakina.
The world No.1 then declared she was only just warming up for the business week at Melbourne Park.
"I know if a player is going to beat me, they're going to have to play a very high-quality match for a long period of time," Barty said after extending her 2020 winning streak to seven matches.
"It's not just the first three or four games or first set, it's across a three-set match.
"That's the challenge I try to present to my opponents as often as possible."
Rybakina had won 11 of her first 12 outings this season, lifting the trophy in Hobart after reaching the final in Shenzhen, to present herself as a huge threat to Barty's title ambitions.
But the top seed rose to the challenge after dropping her opening service game to love to charge into the last 16 in one hour and 18 minutes.
"I felt I needed to be switched on. A lot of the games were long and tough and I'm happy to get out of them," Barty said.
"The best match I have played this summer so far. I felt really comfortable moving around the court. I felt like I found the middle of the racquet a lot sooner than my other matches."
Barty next plays 18th seed Alison Riske, the American who knocked the French Open champion out of Wimbledon at the same stage last year.
Czech seventh seed Petra Kvitova remains Barty's projected last-eight hurdle after storming into the second week without dropping a set.
But there'll be no Williams or Osaka in the semi-finals, as expected pre-tournament, following their dramatic departures in the space of five hours.
Williams suffered a shock 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 7-5 loss to Wang Qiang while Osaka succumbed 6-3 6-4 to 15-year-old American sensation Coco Gauff.
For now, though, Barty is only concerned about her next match on Sunday after Riske eliminated the Australian's doubles partner Julia Goerges with a 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 comeback win over the German.
Riske pulled off one of the upsets of 2019 when she rallied from a set down last July at the All England Club to snap Barty's 15-match European winning streak that propelled her to world No.1 for the first time.
"Obviously if you have played someone, you can draw on some of those experiences," Barty said.
"But, yeah, absolutely nothing changes. I'm still here, it's all good."
Australian Associated Press