Like the great Rod Laver, hearing the ball is music to Ash Barty's ears - and may just be the new ingredient that helps drive her closer to a maiden Australian Open title.
In her first match since COVID restrictions ensured at least a temporary halt on crowds attending the Open, Barty soldiered on unperturbed, taking out Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2 6-4.
While many players are driven by vocal support, particularly when it comes from a partisan home crowd, Barty admitted while "it may be a little bit rude" to supporters, she loved the aural advantage of being able to hear the sound of the ball.
She said the new conditions further helped her process data during a match - a worry for her opponents given the world No.1 is already regarded as one of the best thinkers on tour.
"It's kind of a way that you can narrow your focus in to listen to the sound of the ball," she said.
"I find it a way where I can listen to the spin the opponent is hitting on the ball, the pace it's coming.
"It's just another way for me to be able to absorb the information quickly, to then adjust and change what I need to in order to try and then put the ball in the position that I want to."
It was something Australia's greatest men's player Laver had previously noted, a love of "playing by the sound" of ball on racquet.
With crowds not allowed back until at least Thursday, Barty will perhaps get at least another two chances to sharpen her ball-listening skills, starting when she takes on American Shelby Rogers in the round of 16.
On Saturday night on Margaret Court Arena Barty came back from breaks down in both sets but still appeared largely in command throughout the match.
Alexandrova broke the Australian in the opening game with aggressive groundstrokes and a willingness to get to the net but after holding her own serve things quickly went south for the 29th seed.
The world No.1 won seven games on the hop and looked for a quick finish before Alexandrova made things interesting with another break and a 4-2 lead in the second set.
But that proved just as fleeting as the Russian's first-set stand, with the Queenslander polishing off the next four games to take the match.
With her left leg heavily strapped and given she pulled out of her second-round doubles match ostensibly as a precaution, there were perhaps a few questions about Barty's fitness.
They were all answered well enough in the 81-minute match and Barty remarked afterwards she would continue to be "ready to go no matter what".
Barty beat her next opponent Rogers - a straight-sets winner over Anett Kontaveit on Saturday night - just a week ago in the Yarra Valley Classic quarter-finals, but needed a match tiebreak to do so in the reduced-format clash.
She becomes the first Australian since Lleyton Hewitt (2003-05) to make three consecutive fourth rounds at Melbourne Park.
Australian Associated Press