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Barty headlines hot day at Australian Open

Ashleigh Barty’s showdown with Camila Giorgi is set to headline a stacked day-four line-up at the Australian Open with the temperature set to soar at Melbourne Park.

Barty will walk onto Rod Laver Arena on Thursday evening as Australia’s last remaining female hope following Daria Gavrilova’s 7-5 6-3 overnight defeat to Belgian Elise Mertens.

Australia’s top-ranked woman showed impressive poise to outlast hard-hitting Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in three sets on Tuesday night.

Italian powerhouse Giorgi is likely to present 18th seed Barty with a similar physical challenge and has the recent form to suggest she’s capable of a boilover.

The world No.71 saw off Petra Kvitova and Sloane Stephens at the Sydney International before her semi-final defeat to Angelique Kerber, who went on to beat Barty in the final.

Barty prevailed in each of their meetings last year but the 21-year-old said it was clear Giorgi had since lifted her game.

“I think in my eyes it’s been massive improvements,” Barty said.

“It’s been no secret, especially on serve.

“I feel like I’ve got a reasonably clear plan to play Giorgi. Even with some of the improvements she’s had, hopefully my game has improved as well.”

With the mercury forecast to reach 39C on Thursday Maria Sharapova, Garbine Muguruza and 2016 champion Kerber are all set to swelter through afternoon matches.

Sharapova comes up against Latvian 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova as she continues her quest for a sixth grand slam title after serving a lengthy doping ban.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Muguruza takes on Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh while Kerber will meet Croatian Donna Vekic.

World No.1 Simona Halep, who has been grappling with an ankle issue, faces a tough second-round opponent in former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard on Margaret Court Arena.

On the men’s side, six-time champion Novak Djokovic’s troublesome elbow is set to be put the test by 2016 quarter-finalist Gael Monfils.

The flamboyant Frenchman has never beaten his Serbian rival at tour level but may have his best chance yet with Djokovic on the comeback trail from a six-month injury lay-off.

Title favourite Roger Federer rounds out the action on Rod Laver Arena against German Jan-Lennard Struff.

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