Naomi Osaka insisted she was unaffected by the saga surrounding Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open.

Osaka opened her title defence at Melbourne Park with a 6-3 6-3 win over Colombian Camila Osorio on Monday.

The lead up to the year's first grand slam was overshadowed by the visa saga around Djokovic, who was deported from Australia on Sunday.

But Osaka, a four-time major winner, said the Serbian world number one's situation had no impact on her.

"I mean, to be completely honest, it didn't really affect me. I saw that it affected the men's draw a little bit so you might have to ask a men's player," she said.

"For me, my goal even before this whole situation is to just focus on myself more, what I need to do to become better.

"I wasn't really, I guess, looking at the news too often."

Osaka was unwilling to be drawn on whether Djokovic, whose visa was cancelled by immigration minister Alex Hawke, should be competing in the tournament.

A two-time champion in Melbourne, Osaka said her focus was on herself – with a second-round clash against Madison Brengle awaiting her.

"I feel like people focus on whatever they want to focus on. It's more like an individual question," Osaka said.

"Me, I'm a tennis player. I'll focus on my matches. You, as I guess an audience, focus on whatever is in the news, no?"

Naomi Osaka moved into the Australian Open second round with a straight-sets victory over Camila Osorio on Monday.

The defending champion was largely untroubled by 20-year-old Colombian Osorio, easing to a 6-3 6-3 victory in 68 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

Osaka, a four-time grand slam winner, has now won 23 of her past 24 matches in Melbourne.

It means a fourth-round showdown between Osaka and world number one Ash Barty remains on the cards.

Osaka made an imperious start and raced into a 5-0 lead after 16 minutes, on the back of eight winners, plus seven unforced errors from Osorio.

Incredibly, Osorio – who was growing in belief – had chances to get back on serve when Osaka was trying to close out the set, but the two-time champion in Melbourne managed to seal it 6-3.

The energetic Osorio was encouraging herself throughout while matching Osaka, who broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set.

In the end, Osaka proved too good despite a decent first-round test, moving into a meeting with either Dayana Yastremska or Madison Brengle.

 

DATA SLAM: Osaka's first-round record remains strong

Osaka is rarely troubled in the opening round of grand slams. The star is now 19-2 in the first round at majors.

Another challenge awaits. Osaka has never defended any of her major crowns and the last player to defend the women's title at Melbourne Park was Victoria Azarenka (2012 and 2013).

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Osaka – 19/28
Osorio – 5/15

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Osaka – 4/3
Osorio – 1/4

BREAK POINTS WON
Osaka – 4/6
Osorio – 1/5

The tennis season has begun with Rafael Nadal, Ash Barty, Paula Badosa and Thanasi Kokkinakis among the champions at small-scale events in Australia.

Yet there has been one dominant story in the sport and little else has had a look-in in the lead-up to the Australian Open.

Now that Novak Djokovic knows his fate, there is the welcome prospect of eyes turning to matters on the tennis court, rather than the Federal Court.

With the action getting under way in Melbourne on Monday, Stats Perform looks at the main protagonists and what the numbers tell us about another high-stakes grand slam.

Djokovic absence blows open men's draw

As defending champion Djokovic heads for home, it is worth a reminder of how he has dominated this tournament.

Nine of his grand slam titles have come in Melbourne, and he has taken the trophy in each of the last three years, helping him cosy up alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 majors, an all-time record they share. Of the 'Big Three', only Nadal is in the draw this year, with Federer currently on the injured list.

Djokovic has the highest win percentage in the Open Era (since 1969) at the Australian Open, among players with 20 or more wins (91.1 per cent – W82 L8). He was hoping to join Nadal (13 French Opens) and Margaret Court (11 Australian Opens) in the exclusive club of players to reach double figures for singles titles at one slam.

The Serb was also aspiring to become the first man in the Open Era to win four consecutive Australian Opens. It happened once before the tour turned professional, with Roy Emerson winning five in a row from 1963 to 1967. Djokovic has left Melbourne with the title every time that he has made it through to the semi-finals.

 

So who takes the title now?

Only Bjorn Borg (89.2 per cent) has a higher winning percentage in grand slam matches than Nadal (87.7 per cent) and Djokovic (87.5 per cent) in the Open Era, among players with 100 or more wins. So why not Nadal?

The 35-year-old and Djokovic have carved up 12 of the last 14 grand slam titles, Nadal winning four of those (three French Opens, one US Open). He is battling back from a foot injury lay-off and coronavirus, and might need to get the early rounds out of the way without undue stress to stand a chance at the business end.

The two exceptions in the Nadal-Djokovic sequence of slam dominance have come at the US Open, with Dominic Thiem winning in New York in 2020 and Daniil Medvedev triumphing at Djokovic's expense in last year's Flushing Meadows final. Thiem is not in Australia, but world number two Medvedev is, looking to become the third Russian man to win two slams, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.

The last man other than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to secure back-to-back slam singles title was Andre Agassi (US Open 1999 and Australian Open 2000), but that is Medvedev's objective now, and he has the game to pull it off.

Nadal has reached at least the quarter-final stage in 15 of his last 16 grand slam appearances, winning six of those majors (four French Opens and two US Opens), so he may well be a factor.

Who else is in the frame? Alexander Zverev probably, having reached the quarter-finals in Australia in the last two seasons (SF in 2020 and QF in 2021). He won the Olympic Games and ATP Finals titles last year, so a grand slam is an obvious next step. He might want to keep double faults in check though, having served a tour-high 113 in slams last season.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the Australian semi-finals in 2019 and 2021, so throw him into the mix too, and Matteo Berrettini might be a threat. The Italian, a runner-up to Djokovic at Wimbledon in July, served more aces than any other player in grand slams last year (311 aces, 16.4 on average per match).

 

Others have more modest ambitions

Andy Murray is back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2019, when he lost in the first round against Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets and was more or less given his last rites as a tennis pro after the match, having indicated he was close to retirement.

The five-time Australian Open runner-up last won a match in this tournament in 2017, when he reached round four. A tough opener against Nikoloz Basilashvili awaits.

Spanish 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez will make his 80th appearance in a grand slam and become the second man in the Open Era with 80 or more appearances at the four majors, after Federer (81).

Do not expect an Australian to be men's champion, by the way. The last time an Australian reached the men's singles final was 2005, when Lleyton Hewitt lost against Safin, and the last home champion was Mark Edmondson in 1976.

Barty backed in stacked women's draw

For the first time since 1997, neither Serena nor Venus Williams will take part in the Australian Open. Yet the women's tour is in rude health, even without those great bastions.

Ash Barty is world number one and a standout pick for many, only enhancing her claims after winning an Adelaide International title in the run-up to this fortnight.

But there is staggering depth on the women's side at present, and Barty will face stiff competition.

Incredibly, the last five grand slam finals have featured 10 different women, and teenager Emma Raducanu's against-all-odds US Open triumph in September shows best of all that new stars are emerging.

Yet since 2000, only three non-seeded players have reached the women's singles final at the Australian Open: Serena Williams in 2007, Justine Henin in 2010 and Garbine Muguruza in 2020. 

Barty could become the first Australian to be women's champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978, and the first to reach the final since Wendy Turnbull lost to Hana Mandlikova in 1980.

The Queenslander is the top seed, and the last time the number one failed to reach at least the fourth round at Melbourne Park was in 1979, when Virginia Ruzici lost her opening match. Barty ended a long wait for an Australian winner of the women's title at Wimbledon last year, so why not closer to home as well?

 

Naomi Osaka is back, so what should we expect?

Truth be told, that's hard to know. Osaka took time out from tennis after the US Open to focus on her mental health and enjoyed hanging out with friends, before deciding she missed tennis enough to go back on tour.

She had three wins at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament recently before withdrawing from a fourth match, saying her body had "got a shock" from the intensity. As defending champion in the season's first major, she has a target on her back and will need to find a way to handle that.

Over the past six seasons, only Osaka has managed to win back-to-back grand slam singles titles among the women, and she has done so twice (US Open 2018 and Australian Open 2019, plus US Open 2020 and Australian Open 2021).

The last player to win back-to-back women's Australian Open singles titles was Victoria Azarenka (2012 and 2013), so it does not happen regularly.

Osaka has an 85 per cent win rate at this tournament: since 2000, only Jennifer Capriati (90 per cent) and Serena Williams (89 per cent) have had a higher win percentage in the main draw.

 

You want challengers to the big two? Try sticking a pin in the draw

The Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, which goes to the champion, is a trophy that upwards of a dozen women will seriously believe they can win.

Aryna Sabalenka has reached the semi-finals of the last two slams but is mired in some kind of hellish serving groove, having made 74 double faults in her last four matches and lost the last three in a row.

Anett Kontaveit won a tour-high 39 matches on hard courts last year but has only been to one grand slam quarter-final – last year in Australia, losing to Simona Halep.

What about Ons Jabeur, who matched Kontaveit for a tour-high 48 wins across all surfaces last year? The Tunisian is queen of the drop shot, making 147 successful such plays on tour last year, more than any other player, and recently reached the top 10 in the WTA rankings for the first time.

Maria Sakkari reached two slam semi-finals last year, the first of her career, and the form of Barbora Krejcikova and Badosa in the past week in Melbourne marks them out as contenders. Both are recent fast-risers, Krejcikova already with a French Open title to show.

WTA Finals champion Muguruza could be the second Spaniard to twice reach the Melbourne title match, after Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1994 v Steffi Graf and 1995 v Mary Pierce). Spain has never had an Australian Open women's singles winner: former French Open and Wimbledon champ Muguruza is an authentic contender.

Halep was runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki in 2018, a semi-finalist in 2020 and quarter-finalist last year, and a Melbourne Summer Set title was a handy warm-up for the Romanian. Consider her, too.

Monica Seles, in 1991, was the last player to triumph on her debut in the main draw, but she was already a grand slam winner (1990 French Open). Given the strength of the line-up, the prospect of a bolter coming through this field is unlikely, even if the example of Raducanu tells us anything is possible.

Paula Badosa underlined her credentials as an Australian Open contender by capturing the Sydney Classic title on Saturday.

The Spaniard beat French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 6-3 4-6 7-6 (7-4) to claim the trophy in a battle of two of the breakout stars on the WTA Tour.

Krejcikova was considered a doubles specialist until last season, when she soared from 65th to fifth place in the world rankings, on the back of Roland Garros glory and runs at both Wimbledon and the US Open.

New York-born Badosa also shot up the rankings in 2021, surging from 69th to number eight by the year's end after winning titles in Belgrade and Indian Wells.

Her performance in winning the latter, a prestigious WTA 1000 event, pointed to Badosa being a likely challenger for hardcourt success in Australia.

She beat Krejcikova during that Californian tournament and repeated the feat in Sydney, the hard-hitting Spaniard maintaining a 100 per cent winning record in WTA finals.

Badosa said: "I feel really bad because I'm playing against a friend and playing a match like today where I think we both went to the limit and losing, it is never easy.

"But I want to congratulate you for everything. We both broke into the top 100 a few years ago, and now we're playing big finals.

"For me, it's an honour to see you grow, you're an amazing player and a grand slam champion."

Badosa begins her Australian Open mission in Melbourne against a home player in Ajla Tomljanovic next week, while Krejcikova has a first-round clash with German Andrea Petkovic.

Chris Evert has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and has begun chemotherapy, the American tennis great announced.

The 67-year-old Evert, whose on-court battles with Martina Navratilova in the 1970s and 1980s provided one of the greatest tennis rivalries, won 18 grand slam singles titles in a much-lauded career.

Evert told ESPN, for whom she has worked as a match analyst, that she underwent the first of six rounds of chemotherapy this week.

It means Evert has not travelled to Melbourne to work at the Australian Open, which begins on Monday. She said she would be providing analysis from home during the tournament.

The cancer was discovered after a preventive hysterectomy and Evert said it was found at an early stage.

In a message posted on Twitter, she said: "I wanted to share my stage 1 ovarian cancer diagnosis and the story behind it as a way to help others. I feel very lucky that they caught it early and expect positive results from my chemo plan."

Speaking to ESPN, she added: "I've lived a very charmed life. Now I have some challenges ahead of me. But, I have comfort in knowing the chemotherapy is to ensure that cancer does not come back.

"As someone who has always had control over my life, I have no idea how I'll respond to chemotherapy. I have to give in to something higher."

 

Evert's sister Jeanne died from ovarian cancer in February 2020.

"When I go into chemo, she is my inspiration," Evert added. "I'll be thinking of her. And she'll get me through it."

Messages of support poured in for Evert, with Navratilova writing: "We are all with you and behind you Chrissie, you are a true champion and I have no doubt you will conquer this nasty opponent with nary a sweat!"

Billie Jean King, a fellow American tennis legend, said she and her partner Ilana Kloss would have Evert "in our thoughts and prayers".

"Sending you so much love and healing thoughts, @ChrissieEvert ... and we wish you strength as you face this battle. You are one of a kind, and there are so many who love you," King said.

Among current WTA Tour stars, there were Twitter messages of support from the likes of Victoria Azarenka, Garbine Muguruza, Madison Keys, Paula Badosa and Ons Jabeur.

Tracy Austin, a fellow player-turned-analyst, told Evert: "You are one of the strongest people I know. There are so many of us that will be with you every step of the way."

Daria Kasatkina reached her second semi-final in as many weeks with a straight-sets victory over Garbine Muguruza at the Sydney Tennis Classic on Wednesday.

The world number 26, who was defeated by Amanda Anisimova in the Melbourne Summer Set 2 semi-finals last week, beat second seed Muguruza 6-4 6-4.

Kasatkina held throughout the opening set, landing 67 per cent of her first serves, and saw the job through in the second despite a couple of early breaks for Muguruza.

It is the Russian's first win over a top-five opponent since beating Caroline Wozniacki at the 2018 French Open.

She will now face fifth seed Paula Badosa, who saw off Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-3 in an entertaining match lasting two hours and 35 minutes.

The other semi-final in Sydney will be contested between Anett Kontaveit and Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced past Ons Jabeur and Caroline Garcia respectively.

Krejcikova proved far too strong for Garcia, prevailing 6-0 6-2 in 70 minutes, while Kontaveit was in action for just 43 minutes before being handed a walkover win in her match.

Jabeur had targeted "payback" against Kontaveit after her quarter-final opponent pipped her to the final WTA Finals spot in November, but injury cost her the chance to do so.

Having lost the first set 6-4, Jabeur – who eliminated Petra Kvitova in the previous round – felt unable to continue due to a lower back injury.

At the Adelaide International 2, three of the five Americans in action made it through to the semi-finals.

Alison Riske's clash with compatriot Madison Brengle ended early due to the latter retiring with the first set level at 3-3. Tamara Zidansek awaits Riske after beating Lauren Davis 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (9-7).

Coco Gauff and Madison Keys will meet in the other semi-final, meanwhile, following victories over Ana Konjuh and Ludmilla Samsonova in two and three sets respectively.

Novak Djokovic has been drawn against Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening round of the Australian Open as the defending champion awaits to hear if he can stay in the country.

World number one Djokovic was last week given a medical exemption to enter Australia, despite not being vaccinated, only for border officials to block it upon his arrival.

The 20-time grand slam winner was detained for four days while waiting to appeal the case on Monday, which went in his favour at Melbourne Circuit Court.

Djokovic has since started training ahead of the Australian Open, which begins next Monday, though immigration minister Alex Hawke may yet cancel his visa for a second time. 

A decision on whether Djokovic can compete in the first grand slam of the year, which he has won a record nine times, could be made on Thursday.

Should he be given the all clear to take part, Djokovic will face compatriot Kecmanovic in the first round at Melbourne Park.

Thursday's draw, which was delayed by one hour and 15 minutes for unspecified reasons, also saw fellow 20-time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal paired with Marcos Giron.

Nadal is in the same half of the draw as Djokovic, meaning the pair could meet in the semi-finals, while third seed Alexander Zverev is also in the top half.

Second seed and 2021 finalist Daniil Medvedev is in the bottom half along with Stefanos Tsitsipas and will take on Henri Laaksonen first up.

In the women's draw, Australia's world number one Ash Barty will begin her quest for glory on home soil against a qualifier.

The top seed is on a collision course with defending champion Naomi Osaka, who goes face-to-face with Camila Osorio in round one on her return from a four-month break.

Reigning US Open winner Emma Raducanu is up against Sloane Stephens, who won the New York major in 2017, while Storm Sanders awaits second seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Ons Jabeur eliminated Petra Kvitova from the Sydney Tennis Classic and immediately set her sights on "payback" against next opponent Anett Kontaveit.

World number 10 Jabeur had lost her previous four meetings with Kvitova, but she emerged victorious on Wednesday with a 6-4 6-4 win to reach the quarter-finals.

Jabeur recovered from 3-1 down in both sets at Ken Rosewall Arena and converted half of her six break points on her way to setting up a meeting with Kontaveit.

The two will resume their friendly rivalry after Kontaveit overcame Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3 6-1.

Jabeur lost out to Kontaveit for the last WTA Finals spot in November and is now seeking revenge in the final warm-up event ahead of the Australian Open.

"Anett is a great player. We had our moments last year," Jabeur said. "I told her, 'You're obsessed with me, you always follow me, so stop [smiling]'.

"I know the pressure is on me, not really on her. But maybe I can get some payback for last year."

Garbine Muguruza is also through to the last eight in Sydney thanks to a 6-1 7-6 (7-4) win against Ekaterina Alexandrova.

The two-time major champion will face Daria Kasatkina, who beat Elise Mertens 6-3 6-4, for a place in the semi-finals.

Third seed Barbora Krejcikova survived a brief fightback from Jaqueline Cristian to advance 6-1 7-5, meanwhile, and Paula Badosa beat home hope Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3 6-4.

There was disappointment for in-form Elena Rybakina, who thrashed Emma Raducanu on Tuesday but had to withdraw from her clash with Caroline Garcia with a thigh injury.

At the Adelaide International 2, Coco Gauff prevailed 6-3 5-7 6-3 in her battle of the teenagers showdown with Marta Kostyuk.

Gauff is one of five Americans in the quarter-finals along with Madison Brengle, Alison Riske, Lauren Davis and Madison Keys, who beat Tereza Martincova 6-1 6-3 to advance.

US Open champion Emma Raducanu suffered the heaviest defeat of her professional career at the hands of Elena Rybakina at the Sydney Tennis Classic.

The ninth seed needed just 55 minutes to storm to a 6-0 6-1 victory to set up a meeting with Caroline Garcia in round two.

This was only Raducanu's eighth appearance in a WTA main draw and the 19-year old had not played since November having contracted COVID-19 and then withdrawn from the Melbourne Summer Set last week.

Rybakina lost only 11 points on serve in the match, sending down four aces. Raducanu, by contrast, struggled badly: the Briton gave up six double faults and won just two points behind her second serve.

"My serve is a weapon, so I'm always working on it and trying to find some variety," said Rybakina. "For sure, it's my game to play aggressive and my serve is helping a lot."

Elsewhere in Sydney, Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic beat Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3 6-2 in her first match of the year and will now face France's Oceane Dodin.

Home favourite Ajla Tomljanovic defeated Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in straight sets, while world number 20 Elise Mertens also progressed.

At the Adelaide International 2, Coco Gauff looked in strong form as she dispatched Katerina Siniakova 6-1 6-2, while fellow seed Tamara Zidansek beat Heather Watson in a three-set battle.

There was a shock for top seed Aryna Sabalenka, though, as she fell 5-7 6-1 7-5 to Sweden's Rebecca Peterson, who celebrated her first win over a top-five player, while American Lauren Davis beat seventh seed Jil Teichmann in three sets.

Ninth seed Sorana Cirstea lost in straight sets to Anhelina Kalinina, but eighth seed Liudmila Samsonova beat Mayar Sherif.

Ons Jabeur made an impressive start to 2022 with a routine win over Astra Sharma at the Sydney Tennis Classic.

Last year's Wimbledon quarter-finalist needed less than an hour to win 6-1 6-3 in her first match of the year and set up a meeting with Petra Kvitova, who has won all three of their previous contests.

There was also a strong performance from Daria Kasatkina, who defeated eighth seed Sofia Kenin 6-4 6-0 to progress.

Fourth seed Anett Kontaveit overcame Shuai Zhang 6-3 6-3 while fifth seed Paula Badosa was a straight-sets winner against 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

There was a surprise at the Adelaide International 2 as second seed Elina Svitolina was undone by the brutal serving of Madison Keys.

The American sent down 14 aces and won all but five points on her first serve to triumph 6-2 6-4.

Compatriot Alison Riske also progressed, beating Magda Linette 6-4 6-4, but Shelby Rogers lost to Marta Kostyuk.

Marketa Vondrousova, who had not played since losing in the Kremlin Cup semi-finals to Kontaveit in October, came from a set down to beat Viktorija Golubic.

The fifth seed battled through 5-7 6-4 6-3 in just under two and a half hours and will now face Ana Konjuh in the last 16.

Ash Barty defeated Elena Rybakina in straight sets to claim the Adelaide International title, while Simona Halep clinched silverware in Melbourne.

World number one and heavy favourite Barty prevailed 6-3 6-2 against Rybakina to claim the Adelaide title for a second time in three seasons.

The 25-year-old recovered from 40-15 down in the seventh game and went on to immediately earn the only break of the opening set.

Barty did not look back as she held throughout the second set, meaning she went 35 consecutive games without losing serve to conclude the tournament.

After securing a 14th WTA singles title in a little over an hour, Barty now turns focus to next week's Sydney Tennis Classic ahead of beginning her Australian Open campaign.

"I feel good leading up to an Australian Open like I have every year," Barty, who hit 17 winners to 13 unforced errors, said after seeing off Rybakina. 

"Each and every preparation is unique. We take it for what comes and what it is, move on, try and do the best that we can in every opportunity.

"It has absolutely no effect on the way that I prepare or the way I'm thinking leading forward just because it's a Grand Slam. It doesn't change for us."

Halep, one of Barty's likely rivals for the Australian Open crown, also made a bright start to the year by overcoming Veronika Kudermetova in the Melbourne Summer Set 1 final.

The number two seed, who is aiming to put last year's injury-ravaged and trophyless season behind her, came out on top 6-2 6-3.

She recovered from an early break down in the first set and again in the second to make it 23 career titles, and a first since the 2020 Italian Open.

It could easily have been a different story, however, as Kudermetova had three break points to move 3-0 ahead in the second set, but the Russian could not take full advantage.

Amanda Anisimova defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich at the Melbourne Summer Set 2 final to claim the first WTA title of the season, and her second overall.

Belarusian qualifier Sasnovich hit back in style to take the second set 6-1 after losing the opener 7-5, but Anisimova recovered from a break down to edge the deciding set 6-4.

In doing so, Anisimova became the first American to win a title on Australian soil since Sofia Kenin's Australian Open triumph in 2020.

Ash Barty moved a step closer to a second Adelaide International title in three seasons as she crushed defending champion Iga Swiatek's hopes in the semi-finals.

Competing as a stepping stone towards her principal goal of challenging for the Australian Open title later in the month, home favourite Barty sped to a 6-2 6-4 win over the 2020 French Open winner.

She served fewer aces than Swiatek – five to the seven fired down by the 20-year-old Pole – but Barty's powerful forehand proved decisive as she made snappy work of ending the contest.

Barty will face Elena Rybakina in Sunday's final, after the Kazakh beat Japan's Misaki Doi 6-4 6-3. Queenslander Barty beat Dayana Yastremska in the 2020 final.

Having won the French Open and Wimbledon already in her career, Barty will be the favourite at the Australian Open, which begins on January 17 in Melbourne.

The world number one, by seeing off ninth-ranked Swiatek, boosted her win-loss record against top-10 WTA rivals to 8-1 since the beginning of last year.

Barty said, quoted on the WTA website: "It is exciting to be able to play well here in Australia. This is where I want to play my best tennis. I want to give myself an opportunity to play for titles in Australia.

"It's something really exciting to start the year off as an Aussie player in front of our home fans."

Reflecting on a positive performance, Barty, who has also reached the doubles final with Storm Sanders, said: "I felt like on Iga's service games I was able to get into most of them, which is important when you're playing someone who can dominate with that first ball and first strike.

"I felt like I was able to build pressure over time, making her play a lot of balls on her service games, not giving her too many cheapies."

Swiatek is entered into next week's Sydney Classic and learned on Saturday that she faces a testing opener there, having been drawn to face Great Britain's US Open champion Emma Raducanu in a standout first-round match.

At the Melbourne Summer Set 2 tournament, Russian third seed Daria Kasatkina suffered a shock 6-2 6-0 semi-final defeat at the hands of American world number 78 Amanda Anisimova.

Anisimova goes on to face fellow unseeded player Aliaksandra Sasnovich for the title, after the Belarusian beat American Ann Li 7-6 (7-4) 2-6 6-3.

Naomi Osaka will be hoping to be fit for the Australian Open after the reigning champion withdrew from the Melbourne Summer Set 1.

Osaka, who won the most recent of her four grand slam titles last year at Melbourne Park, has looked in fine form this week in her first appearances since returning from the break she took from tennis last year.

The top seed beat Alize Cornet, Maryna Zanevska and Andrea Petkovic en route to the semi-finals, but could not compete against Veronika Kudermetova on Saturday, citing an abdominal injury.

Osaka explained that her body had taken a hit from playing such intense matches in consecutive days, and she instead is looking to rest and recover ahead of the first grand slam of the season, which starts on January 17.

"Sad to withdraw due to injury from my match today, my body got a shock from playing back to back intense matches after the break I took," Osaka tweeted.

"Thank you for all the love this past week [Red heart] I’ll try to rest up and I’ll see you soon!"

Osaka's injury has prevented what looked to be an enticing showdown with Simona Halep, who guaranteed a place in a WTA Tour singles final for a 13th successive season by beating Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen 6-3 6-2.

Halep's first final came in 2010 and she has taken just a week to get back into her stride after an injury-ravaged 2021 season.

The Romanian, a two-time grand slam champion, went into the week ranked at world number 20, her lowest position at the start of a season since 2013.

However, she has now reached at least the semi-final stage in three successive tournaments, and she will fancy her chances against third seed Kudermetova, who is into her third singles final.

Ash Barty set a new personal best for aces in a match as she rifled 17 past Sofia Kenin on the way through to the Adelaide International 1 semi-finals.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Barty won 31 of 32 points on first serve in a ruthless 6-3 6-4 victory over the 2020 Australian Open winner.

It sets up a tantalising last-four clash with Poland's defending champion Iga Swiatek, who is a frequent practice partner for Australian home favourite Barty.

Explaining her stunning serving performance, Barty said: "I think towards the end Sofia was kind of leaning one way or the other, and I was able to kind of get up and hit my spots."

Facing former French Open winner Swiatek will be a major early-season test for the world number one, with the Warsaw-born 20-year-old fending off former grand slam winner Victoria Azarenka 6-3 2-6 6-1 in Friday's quarter-final.

The other semi-final in Adelaide will see Misaki Doi take on Elena Rybakina after both won in three sets to get there, seeing off Kaja Juvan and Shelby Rogers respectively.

Melbourne Park is staging two tournaments this week, and there is the prospect of a starry final in Melbourne Summer Set 1, with Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep both through to the last four.

Top seed Osaka beat experienced German Andrea Petkovic 6-1 7-5, while second seed Halep had to scrap for a 6-2 5-7 6-4 win against Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland.

Osaka took inspiration from Petkovic's fight in the second set of their contest. Quoted on the tournament website, she said: "It was really cool how she didn't give up for any point, so I just felt like I should do the same thing and see what happens."

Halep said her encounter with Golubic had been "really difficult", adding: "I didn't really trust that I can win this match, but I fought to the end, and I'm very proud of this."

Saturday's semi-finals of Melbourne Summer Set 2 will seed Daria Kasatkina take on Amanda Anisimova, while Ann Li plays Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Ash Barty produced an impressive comeback to defeat Coco Gauff in her first singles match since the US Open.

World number one Barty moved into the quarter-finals of the Adelaide International with a battling 4-6 7-5 6-1 triumph.

The home hope, who is favourite to win the Australian Open when it starts later this month, was a set and a break down against the American wonderkid before ultimately progressing in two hours and 12 minutes.

Exhausted after a six-month road trip that included Wimbledon glory last year, Barty took a break from the WTA Tour after her third-round exit at Flushing Meadows on September 5.

Her return came in a marquee matchup at the WTA 500 event which did not disappoint, as Barty battled to win 11 of the last 13 games and prevail.

The victor stemmed the early errors she was making on the forehand side, with Gauff paying the price for only converting three of her 15 break-point opportunities. 

It was only the second meeting between Barty and Gauff, with the Australian having to retire with an arm injury while leading their first encounter in Rome last year.

"I felt like I played a pretty good quality match considering it was my first match in a few months," said Barty.

"In the first set I was able to create opportunities but just was a little bit slack on the execution, rusty in the sense of stringing quality points together.

"Midway through the second set I was able to find my rhythm a little bit better on serve and just continued to be aggressive on my forehand. I just found execution a little bit more.

"Coco played great and forced me to hit a lot of balls. I felt I got better and better as the match went on. It was nice to get some court time."

An intriguing last-eight tie lies in wait for Barty. She will either play former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin or compatriot Ajla Tomljanovic.

And there was more good news for Barty as two of her main rivals for glory were eliminated.

Second seed Aryna Sabalenka was surprisingly beaten as Kaja Juvan, the world number 100, prevailed 7-6 (8-6) 6-1.

Maria Sakkari, the third seed, also crashed out, beaten in three sets by Shelby Rogers, the player who knocked Barty out of the US Open the last time the Australian was on court.

There are two other tournaments taking place this week, both at WTA 250 level.

At Melbourne Summer Set 1, second seed Simona Halep joined Naomi Osaka in round two with a routine 6-4 6-2 win over Destanee Aiava.

The field is not as strong at Melbourne Summer Set 2, where the highest seed remaining, Daria Kasatkina, progressed after opponent Anna Kalinskaya, having already lost the first set, withdrew through injury.

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