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Barty gets Australian summer off the mark

  • Matt Trollope

She was forced to dig deep into her reserves of confidence and tennis nous, but Ash Barty eventually saw off Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Adelaide to notch her first singles win of 2020.

Barty, the world No.1 and top seed at Memorial Drive, let slip a 5-2 lead in the final set before cleaning up her game to post a 4-6 6-3 7-5 win over the former world No.13 on Tuesday.

She is the first player through to the quarterfinals at the inaugural Adelaide International, and will next face either fellow Australian Arina Rodionova or Czech Marketa Vondrousova.

Barty thumped Vondrousova for the loss of just four games in the French Open final in June to win her first Grand Slam singles title.

World No.16 Vondrousova barely played after that match; she injured her wrist during the grass-court season, fell in the first round of Wimbledon, and did not return to the court for the rest of 2019.

Her 6-3 6-0 win over Tatjana Maria on Tuesday in Adelaide was her first match, and win, in six months.

Rodionova, meanwhile, stunned 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens 6-2 6-2 for her third straight win after coming through the qualifying rounds.

The result continued Stephens’ less than ideal start to 2020; last week she fell in three sets to another qualifier, Ludmilla Samsonova, in the opening round in Brisbane.

Barty also fell to a qualifier in Brisbane, with world No.53 Jennifer Brady stunning the hometown favourite at Pat Rafter Arena in straight sets.

Yet on Tuesday in Adelaide, she was able to cast that result aside and overcome somewhat patchy play – as well as a stylish opponent – to secure victory.

“I definitely was able to find a bit more of my kind of style of tennis and control the match a little bit more in the third,” Barty said.

“Credit to Anastasia; she hung around and got more aggressive in those latter games. We've always had very close ones. She pretty much controls the whole match.

“I'm just out here trying to do the best that I can. I'm happy now that I've given myself an opportunity to play another match on this beautiful court in front of everyone here in Adelaide.”

Barty, who with Kiki Bertens advanced to last week’s doubles final in Brisbane, said she was happy to be back into the swing of competing after a ground-breaking 2019 season, during which she won more than 50 matches – including 12 against top-10 players – plus four titles and US$11 million in prize money.

She enters next week’s Australian Open as the first home-grown female top seed since 1977 and will be aiming to improve on her exciting run to the quarterfinals last year – at the time her best Grand Slam result.

“It's been an incredible journey for myself and my team,” she said.

“I think our off-season went really quickly. It was a bit of a whirlwind year for us but now we're excited to be back playing, back competing, back doing what I love.”

A French Open final rematch with Vondrousova would be a boon for fans in Adelaide, who are enjoying the return of tour-level tennis to their city for the first time since 2008.

Yet Vondrousova will have her hands full with Rodionova, who before defeating Stephens upset Carla Suarez Navarro and Anastasia Potapova to reach the main draw.

An all-Australian quarterfinal would be pretty well received, too.

“It’s always great to get such amazing wins against the top players. So, yeah, I feel pretty good about myself right now,” said Rodionova, who has notched three straight wins over top-100 opponents for the first time in her career.

“This is my third big win of the week, so I’m not counting anymore. Hopefully I only manage to continue.”

In other results, former top-10 star Julia Goerges stopped local wildcard Priscilla Hon 7-6(7) 6-3 in the first round, while Maria Sakkari and Bernarda Pera also advanced to the last 16.