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Barty urges de Minaur to embrace the hype and support

Darren Walton -

Ash Barty is urging Alex de Minaur to ride the wave of patriotic fervour and support as he continues his bold bid to break the most infamous drought in Australian sport.

Two years after Barty became the first local woman since 1978 to win the Australian Open singles crown, de Minaur is striving to become the first home hope in almost half a century to claim the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.

The Open trophy has eluded the likes of former world No.1s Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt, and Wimbledon champion Pat Cash since unseeded underdog Mark Edmondson upset John Newcombe in the 1976 final.

Now it's de Minaur carrying the hopes of a nation after the 24-year-old raised excitement levels with his rousing start to the summer.

Watershed wins over 10-time Open champion Novak Djokovic, world No.2 Carlos Alcaraz and the sixth-ranked Alexander Zverev preceded two straight-set victories to open his Melbourne Park campaign.

Barty is imploring the fan favourite to embrace the hype and enjoy the moment, like she did during her inspired run to the women's title in 2022, rather than feel any burden or pressure of expectation.

"It's unique, but it's fun. It's fun to be able to play here when you feel like you're playing your best tennis and trying to do that at home," the retired former world No.1 told AAP ahead of de Minaur's third-round tussle with Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli on Friday.

"Yes, there's noise but it's almost an illusion that there's the expectation but more than anything it's excitement from the public.

"People want him to do. They want him to be there at the end of the tournament and that's not a expectation.

"That's just an excitement of people getting caught up in the moment and it's fun.

"You have to ride with it and you have to enjoy it because you blink and it's not there anymore."

Barty believes de Minaur's engaging personality and high-octane playing style has the world No.10 ideally placed to roll with feverish home support.

"He really loves to interact with the crowd," she said.

"From what I've seen, he's always had that relationship with the crowd and feeds off it, loves it. And they love receiving that energy from him as well.

"So hopefully he can work his way into the tournament and then it gets really fun in the second week.

"I just hope that he can stay healthy and play well, play his best stuff and there's no reason then why he can't have a great tournament.

"Whether that's a third round, a quarter-final or win a semi, it doesn't actually matter."

A victory over world No.100 Cobolli would thrust de Minaur into a last-16 clash with either Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev or American Sebastian Korda.

Barty also hopes returning compatriot Ajla Tomljanovic believes she can make a charge following her stirring first-round win from 4-1 down in the deciding set against Petra Martic.

Tomljanovic missed last year's Open with a knee injury after making three grand slam quarter-finals in 13 months before suffering the setback.

"Coming back from a double break down, that just breathes oxygen and confidence into her body," Barty said.

"It's amazing to see her because she's had a rough 12 months with injury. It's just nice to know that she backs herself, like she should.

"She is a damn good tennis player and wins like that only do good things for you making a bit of a run.

"I hope she can stay fit and healthy first and foremost. If she can stay healthy, there's no reason why she can't make a run. She's putting it all together."

Tomljanovic was due to play Latvian 11th seed Jelena Ostapenko on Thursday night for a place in the last 32.

Darren Walton - AAP


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