How generous Barty played part in own downfall
World No.1 Ashleigh Barty might have to pick her practice partners more carefully in future after her generosity in offering a hit to unheralded American Jennifer Brady led to one of the biggest upsets in Australian tennis history.
Brady, ranked No.53 in the world, unceremoniously bundled top seed Barty out of her hometown Brisbane International in a shock 6-4 7-6 (4) boilover on Pat Rafter Arena.
With the win coming on top of her first round defeat of five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova on Tuesday night, qualifier Brady is now the undisputed giant-killer of women's tennis - and she owes a lot of the credit to Barty.
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Still on cloud nine after her first-ever win over a Top-10 opponent, the 24 year-old revealed that a practice session with the popular Australian late last week had helped pave the way to her stunning success.
"We had a practice earlier in the week a few days before I started the qualifying," she said. "That always helps, practising with the top players, which I never really did before.
"It gives you a bit of confidence knowing that you can play at that level and that you belong at that level."
She certainly proved that against Barty, her laser-like serve keeping the local favourite pinned back behind the baseline and unable to get into the match.
It was a clinical performance that has put the rest of the field on notice, with her next opponent, fifth seed Petra Kvitova, well aware of the high profile scalps she has collected so far.
"Hopefully I'm not next," said the world No.7.
"I will do my best to not be.
"I played her last year in Dubai and she gave me some troubles but, yeah, definitely I think she has improved.
"For me, she feels more confident on the court. She has a great serve and it will be great match tomorrow, for sure.
"I will have to play my best and we'll see what happens."
And should Kvitova become Brady's third big-name victim of the tournament she'll know who to blame - Ash Barty.
OSAKA OVERCOMES KENIN
Naomi Osaka admitted she let the pressure get to her before overcoming the threat of American Sofia Kenin on Thursday night to reach the Brisbane International quarter-finals.
The reigning Australian Open champion fought back from a set down at Pat Rafter Arena to beat Kenin 6-7, 6-3, 6-1 in two hours and 20 minutes.
On the same court were fellow tournament drawcard and world No.1 Ash Barty was beaten earlier in the day by American qualifier Jennifer Brady, Japan's Osaka was potentially heading for a similarly early exit when she dropped a marathon first set despite serving 10 aces to two.
"I was serving well throughout the entire match, so I'm very happy about that," third seed Osaka said.
"I just think during the pressure moments I just got really tight and made a couple really bad decisions, but I tried to fix that in the second and third set and I think it worked out."
Kenin, who beat Osaka in Cincinnati last year, defied the odds early, saving two break points in the fourth game before again holding her nerve in the 10th game when down 5-4.
Osaka had four set points but couldn't convert any of them, with Kenin also surviving a time violation to hold serve.
Come the tie-breaker, Osaka gained the early ascendancy to lead 3-1.
But world No.14 Kenin hit back hard, winning six straight points to win the tie-breaker 7-3 and claim the set in 63 minutes.
But the effort of winning the first set took its toll on Kenin early in the second set.
Serving first, she dropped her serve to love.
Despite breaking back immediately to level the set at 1-1, Kenin again failed to hold serve in the third game. She was broken again in the ninth game as Osaka clinched the set 6-3.
With Kenin's resistance finally broken, world No.4 Osaka showed no mercy, winning the deciding set in just half an hour.
"I really just needed to figure out the timing and also the pace of her serve, because in the first set always in the back of my mind I felt like she could maybe turn up the speed of her serve, so I didn't want to get caught while I was returning," Osaka said.
"But then in the second and third set I just realised that I should probably just go for my returns and stop being so hesitant."
Osaka will on Friday meet sixth seed and Dutch star Kiki Bertens, who defeated Estonia's Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 on Thursday night.
"I've practiced with her a couple of times, but it was on clay, so that doesn't count for me. She has a great serve … so it's probably going to be another really hard match for me," Osaka said.