MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A day after declaring Ash Barty unbeatable at her best, Australian great Rod Laver had the best seat in the arena named after him as the world number one delivered another masterclass at the Australian Open on Sunday.
The only player to complete the Grand Slam twice, Laver was among those applauding the reigning Wimbledon champion in her 6-4 6-3 triumph over Amanda Anisimova on Sunday.
It was the most challenging match of this Australian Open for Barty, whose streak of winning 63 straight service games was snapped by her American rival in the second set.
But an eighth straight victory to continue an unbeaten start to 2022 took the 25-year-old into the Australian Open quarter-finals for the fourth year in succession.
The top seed will play American Jessica Pegula, a quarter-finalist in Melbourne last February, on Tuesday.
Barty, bidding to become the first local since Chris O’Neil in 1978 to win the Australian Open, has more in common with Laver than their brilliant backhands and status as Grand Slam champions, with both born in the state of Queensland.
In typically understated fashion, she returned serve to his complement.
"It's so nice to have him enjoying his own house, enjoying his own court. He was unbeatable. I'm certainly not," Barty said.
"Obviously, he's an exceptional human being. He's an amazing champion of our sport. He's iconic.
"And, in the same breath he's also a down-to-earth Queenslander who just loves his sport."
Laver had predicted Barty was ready to produce something special and said "this particular tournament might be the one to bring her to another level".
The 2019 Roland Garros champion has certainly progressed through the draw rapidly, though Anisimova extended her time on court to 74 minutes.
The 20-year-old, who lost to Barty in the 2019 French Open semi-finals, produced exceptional tennis but lacked composure at key moments.
Anisimova, who upset defending champion Naomi Osaka in the third round, made 34 unforced errors, double the tally of Barty.
The most crucial came in the second set when she shanked a smash while holding a game point on serve for 4-3 lead.
From that moment on Barty was in complete command, reeling off 12 of the next 14 points to clinch victory.
"I try to make my opponent's life as uncomfortable as possible. That's my job ultimately, and do it with a smile, have some fun with it," Barty said.
Barty defeated Pegula at the French Open in 2019 in their only career meeting.
"The last couple of years her progression and her confidence with the way that she plays has absolutely skyrocketed," Barty said.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)