How it all went wrong for Aussie Ash
ASH Barty's tournament of living dangerously is over.
The Queenslander dodged Australian Open calamity against Aryna Sabalenka and Camila Giorgi after overcoming sluggish starts in early rounds, but there was no escape against Japan's Naomi Osaka.
Woeful serving at the beginning of both sets sealed Barty's fate 6-4 6-2, sinking hopes the world No 17 would end Australia's 40-year women's singles drought.
Inspired world No 72 Osaka ensured 1978 champion Christine O'Neill remained the nation's most recent champion with a stunning demolition of Newcombe medallist Barty.
The right-hander simply packed too many guns for Barty, pinning the Australian deep behind the baseline and nullifying the conjurer's influence.
The defeat means Barty is yet to progress beyond the third round of a major amid expectation she will eventually vie for grand slam success.
The Australian was left to rue lost opportunity, landing just 13 winners to Osaka's 24.
She also made more unforced errors - 22 to 21 - in an uncharacteristically sloppy display.
Based in the US, Osaka is one of the more aggressive players in the sport but, unlike Barty's previous opponents Sabalenka and Giorgi, her power is offset by a degree of subtlety.
She employed large doses of guile and firepower to break Barty's serve in the first game of the match and then again in the opening and third games of the second set.
As much as the crowd on Margaret Court Arena attempted to lift Barty, Osaka was simply too strong.
Barty, 21, cut a desolate figure as she trudged from view, drawing the applause of spectators - and Osaka.
Osaka, who is now into the fourth round of a major for the first time, was elated.
"I feel really happy but I feel kind of sorry because I knew you guys really wanted (Barty) to win," she said.
"Thankyou because I've always wanted to play an Australian player, watching on TV it looks really cool and it was, so thankyou."
The right-hander was also grateful the match was switched from Rod Laver Arena to Margaret Court Arena, averting a scheduling backlog.
The change meant Barty had fewer supporters in the smaller court.
"I think there would have been a lot more people cheering for her (in Rod Laver Arena) so thankyou," she said.
Osaka will next challenge world No 1 Simona Halep, who barely survived American Lauren Davis in a third-round cliffhanger.