Ash Barty has withdrawn from the women’s doubles at the Australian Open in what appears to be a precautionary measure as she looks to continue her singles

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Ash Barty stretches for a forehand while wearing a bandage at the Australian Open.

Ash Barty has withdrawn from the women’s doubles at the Australian Open in what appears to be a precautionary measure as she looks to continue her singles campaign.

Key points:

  • Barty was scheduled to play doubles with Jennifer Brady on Friday
  • The world number one will play her third-round singles match on Saturday
  • Serena Williams beat Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 to reach the fourth round

Meanwhile, seven-time champion Serena Williams and third seed Naomi Osaka both reached the fourth round of the women’s singles on Friday afternoon.

Tournament organisers announced on Friday that Barty and her doubles partner Jennifer Brady had pulled out of their second-round match against Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka.

No reason for the withdrawal was given, but it is clear Barty is looking to manage her workload with her third-round singles encounter against 29th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova scheduled to be played on Saturday.

Barty wore a heavy bandage and tape on her thigh against Daria Gavrilova during her 6-1, 7-6 (9/7) win on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday.

She also wore bandaging in her first-round doubles match alongside Brady on Wednesday.

The world number one played down concerns she is carrying an injury when she spoke to the media following Thursday’s win over Gavrilova.

“The bandage is very big, but that’s more just support so that the tape itself doesn’t fall off,” Barty said.

“It’s not a very subtle tape job, you often see it on a lot of the girls. The guys can hide it beneath their shorts a little bit better. It’s just a little bit of support.

“I played a lot of matches in the last 10 days after not playing for 12 months, which is natural.

“It’s more of an assistance than anything else.”

Barty said she felt some physical discomfort before her opening match in the singles on Tuesday night when she thrashed Danka Kovinić 6-0, 6-0.

“It came on early Tuesday, warming up for the match,” she said.

“But obviously it’s not affecting the way that I can play in any way. It’s just more giving the leg some assistance to make sure it doesn’t get to a point where it’s going to affect me.”

Barty sat out most of the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

She did not play a tournament for almost 12 months until last week’s Yarra Valley Classic at Melbourne Park, which she won to claim her ninth WTA Tour singles title.

Williams survives tough encounter

Williams defeated Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, and 2019 champion Osaka won 6-3, 6-2 against Ons Jabeur.

Many observers would have expected Williams to make light work of the 101th-ranked Potapova on Rod Laver Arena, but she did not have it all her own way in their third-round match.

Potapova had two set points when serving at 5-3 in the first, but she squandered both to allow Williams to break.

Serena Willaims reaches out to a play a forehand at Melbourne Park during the Australian Open

Serena Williams saved two set points in the first before going on to win.(AP: Andy Brownbill)

The Russian led 5-3 in the tiebreak, however the 10th-seeded Williams reeled off four consecutive points to take out the first set.

Despite dropping serve in the opening game of the second set, Williams had little trouble closing out the match to set up a clash with Sabalenka in the fourth round.

“It was good to get through that match,” Williams said.

“The first set was extremely tight. I was a little tight, but it worked out. I was able to play a little more free in the second set.”

Sabalenka, the seventh seed in the women’s draw, beat Ann Li 6-3, 6-1 earlier on Friday.

Last year’s runner-up Garbiñe Muguruza was a comfortable winner in her third-round match, with a 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Zarina Diyas 6-1, 6-1.

Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov, seeded sixth and 18th in the men’s draw, each claimed spots in the last 16.

Zverev downed 32nd seed Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. Dimitrov was leading 6-0, 6-1 when his opponent Pablo Carreno Busta was forced to retire because of illness.

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