Ash Barty with Rod Laver following her French Open triumph. Picture: Clive Mason/Getty
Ash Barty with Rod Laver following her French Open triumph. Picture: Clive Mason/Getty

Barty can create history with Laver’s top draw advice

ROD Laver has a refreshingly simplistic way of assessing grand slam draws.

"You don't have to beat the other 127 players in the draw, you only have to beat seven players," the decorated Queenslander says.

"The other thing to remember is, you can't win a grand slam tournament in the first week, but you can sure lose it.

"You've just got to go match by match and the rest takes care of itself."

Point being, few of the projections spearing from the Australian Open draw will matter, let alone come to fruition because of the sheer unpredictability of the tournament.

 

But, over the next 72 hours, predictions around where, who and how Ash Barty will negotiate a devilish Australian Open pathway - along with other ruminations - will take hold.

If Barty is to end Australia's 42-year singles title drought in Melbourne, she will - out of necessity - have to break new ground.

And she might have to get lucky.

Ash Barty celebrates her win in Adelaide. Picture: Mark Brake/Getty
Ash Barty celebrates her win in Adelaide. Picture: Mark Brake/Getty

The Queenslander's opening two matches should be reasonably uncomplicated, bearing in mind nothing is guaranteed.

Her first seeded appointment is projected to be Elena Rybakina.

Again, Barty's profile suggests success - as dubious as that premise can be.

Thereafter, the French Open champion's Melbourne Park pathway is littered with massive potholes.

Alison Riske, the American who punctured Barty's Wimbledon dreams, looms as a fourth-round hurdle, as does Croat Petra Martic.

The fourth round contains threats from Petra Kvitova, Madison Keys, Maria Sakkari and Ekaterina Alexandrova. Power merchants with pedigrees.

The semi-final phase - and Barty and any other Australian would be grateful to be pencilled in there now - is eye-wateringly forbidding.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka loiters menacingly, as does Serena Williams.

And that is not even taking into account players such as Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams, Dayana Yastremska and Cori Gauff.

If Laver's wisdom about the futility of over-analysis needs underlining, look no further than lines 37 and 38 in the draw.

Venus Williams and Gauff square in a rematch of the Wimbledon clash claimed by Gauff.

Ditto for Maria Sharapova and Donna Vekic.

Serena Williams is lying in wait for the Aussie world No.1. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty
Serena Williams is lying in wait for the Aussie world No.1. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty

There are no gimmes.

The men's draw is the same.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic, grand slam men's record-holder Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal dominate the market.

But all face significant challenges.

For Djokovic and Federer it is the possibility of a semi-final clash for the right, as the seedings stand, to meet Nadal in the final.

The Spaniard's pathway is lined with danger - Nick Kyrgios, Karen Khachanov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Daniil Medvedev, to name a few.

History beckons on all fronts.

The only certainty, as Laver points out, is victory can't be reached until the last point of the seventh match.

But defeat could come as early as the opening round.

And the more depressing of that equation holds true for virtually every player in fields oozing with possibilities.



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