Fresh from picking up the ninth title of her career on Sunday, Ash Barty simply hit the resume button on Tuesday by posting a punishing 6-0 6-0 win over Danka Kovinic in the first round of Australian Open 2021.
If there was any worry over Barty’s readiness for this Grand Slam following a one-year break, that concern evaporated quickly as the top seed stormed to victory at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne last week.
Contesting her first Grand Slam match since her semifinal appearance at Melbourne Park 12 months ago, Barty solidified her position as a title contender this fortnight by dismantling the 82nd-ranked Kovinic in just 44 minutes. She now awaits the winner of the match between Daria Gavrilova and Sara Sorribes Tormo.
“This is what it’s all about, it’s incredible. I felt great out here tonight. To play in front of you guys is a real honour, a privilege, and we’re truly grateful to be here,” Barty told the crowd on Rod Laver Arena.
Barty enjoyed her time at home this past year, but says she craved the feeling of competition, and her five consecutive wins since she returned to action are testament to that.
“Absolutely, (I missed tennis) every single day,” she stated.
“The competitor in me missed what this is all about. Missed the last hour before we come out on the court when (my coach Craig Tyzzer) ‘Tyz’ and I chat about how we’re going to try and dissect the match. That’s what I missed the most; it’s coming out here and really enjoying that thrill and the fight.
“The bonus particularly for us players in these next two weeks is that we’ve got crowds, we’ve got people to enjoy it with us, and that’s a really, really special part of this week.”
Barty is looking to become the first Australian woman to lift the Australian Open singles trophy since Chris O’Neil in 1978 and is chasing a second major title, having triumphed at Roland Garros two years ago.
She kicked off her 62nd week as world No.1 in commanding fashion on Tuesday, showing zero mercy in what was her first meeting with her Montenegrin opponent.
A backhand passing shot winner earned Barty triple-break point, and the Queenslander broke at love for an early 2-0 lead.
Peppering Kovinic with her incredible variety, Barty won the first 16 points of the match and grabbed the first set in a mere 18 minutes.
The 24-year-old dropped a mere two points on serve in that opening set and picked up right where she left off in the second.
The match ended on a 28th unforced error from Kovinic’s racquet as Barty walked off court having won five times more points than her rival throughout (50 points to 10).
Barty hit 10 winners, including five aces, converted 6/8 break points, dropped just three points in total on serve, and was a perfect 6/6 at the net.