Flawless Barty employs serve as 'weapon' in Australian Open quest

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Ashleigh Barty. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)
Ashleigh Barty. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Top seed Ashleigh Barty said on Wednesday she had been working hard to make her serve "a weapon" and it paid off as she raced into the Australian Open third round with another near-flawless performance.

The Australian world number one is in ominous early-season form and was laser-focused on Rod Laver Arena against Italy's Lucia Bronzetti, her second qualifier in a row, crushing the Italian 6-1, 6-1 in just 52 minutes.

Barty launched her bid for a maiden Australian Open title in emphatic fashion on Monday, annihilating Lesia Tsurenko for the loss of one game in 54 minutes.

Her serve has been untouchable all year. She is now unbeaten in six matches to start the 2022 season after winning the Adelaide International and has not lost a service game for five straight matches.

"Just continually trying to make it a weapon," she said of her serve.

"I'm not the biggest girl out there, but I know I've got a sound technique and I know if I can get my rhythm right and use it effectively, it can be a weapon.

"I think Tyz (coach Craig Tyzzer) and I put a lot of emphasis on my serve, I always have," she added.

"As a kid, I was always serving baskets and baskets of serves to try to create that weapon, try to create a really sound shot.

"I think I've just been able to find some good rhythm and a big part of that is protecting my second serve when I need to do as well.

"I thought I've done a pretty good job of that over the last half dozen matches or so."

Wimbledon champion Barty has been the top-ranked player for 111 consecutive weeks and her little-known 23-year-old opponent, ranked 142 and in her first Grand Slam, never stood a chance.

She held serve then broke Bronzetti to love on a centre court bathed in sunshine.

Bronzetti only hit one winner in the opening five games before finally getting off the mark with a service hold, ahead of the Australian banking the set in 26 minutes.

The Italian held again to start the second set on a positive note but was broken in her next service game and the set followed a similar script.

Barty will face a tougher task on Friday in the last 32 where experienced 30th seed Camila Giorgi awaits after the Italian beat Czech Tereza Martincova 6-2, 7-6 (7/2).

"It's going to be a match where I'm going to have to serve well, bring in variety, make sure I can cover the court, neutralise the best that I can," said Barty of Giorgi.

"She has the ability to hit you off the court without realising it's happening. I think it's going to be another match with some fresh challenges."

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