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Barty's brutal Sydney International draw

Australian ace Ashleigh Barty may have to beat three grand slam champions, including world No.1 Simona Halep, to match her run to last year's final in Sydney.

Barty's brutal Sydney International draw

Australian ace Ashleigh Barty may have to beat three grand slam champions, including world No.1 Simona Halep, to match her run to last year's final in Sydney.

ASHLEIGH BARTY of Australia returns a shot to Claire Liu during the Miami Open Presented by Itau at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, Florida.
ASHLEIGH BARTY of Australia returns a shot to Claire Liu during the Miami Open Presented by Itau at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, Florida. Picture:Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Ashleigh Barty faces the ultimate test of her Australian Open title credentials after copping a brutal draw for next week's Sydney International.

Barty plays 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko for the right to take on world No.1 Simona Halep in a second-round blockbuster at Olympic Park.


So hot is the women's field - which officials suspect is the strongest ever assembled for a 30-player WTA event - that unseeded Barty could potentially have to topple three grand slam champions in four matches just to repeat her run to last year's final.

All up, the Sydney draw - with an incredible direct entry cut-of of No.28 - features eight of the world's top 10 players and eight major winners.

Win or lose against Ostapenko, the 15th-ranked Barty is certain to arrive in Melbourne for the Open starting on January 14 match-hardened and primed for her best-ever grand slam tilt.

The Australian No.1 has already played three matches at the Hopman Cup, downing former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza and Alize Cornet before falling to the second-ranked Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber, plus three mixed doubles encounters.

Barty isn't the only Australian with a tough draw in Sydney.

Wildcard Samantha Stosur has been pitted against former Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova, with the winner likely to run into reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka in round two.

Ajla Tomljanovic plays free-hitting Camila Giorgi, while Daria Gavrilova opens against a yet-to-be-determined qualifier.

Fifth-seeded Alex de Minaur begins his quest to reach the men's final for the second year in a row against Dusan Lajovic, while John Millman takes on Frances Tiafoe.

Three other Australians are in the draw headed by Greek top seed and world No.15 Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Matthew Ebden could meet Tsitsipas in round two if he gets past Nicolas Jarry first up.

Rising teenager Alexei Popyrin faces Martin Klizan, while fellow wildcard James Duckworth has a tough opener against seventh seed Marton Fucsovics.

Fellow Australian Kimberly Birrell, meanwhile, has continued her sizzling summer with a three-set upset win over French former world top-tenner Kristina Mladenovic to reach the final round of qualifying.

A winner of last month's Australian Open wildcard playoff before conquering world No.10 Daria Kasatkina in Brisbane, 19-year-old Birrell saved a match point before posting a thrilling 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 7-6 (10-8) victory on Saturday.

Priscilla Hon also progressed with an impressive 6-1 6-4 first-round qualifying win over Aleksandra Kunic.

Abbie Myers, Maddison Inglis, Destanee Aiava, Alexandra Bozovic, Alex Bolt and Chris O'Connell are also trying their luck in qualifying.

AAP


AAP




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