‘Brutal’ Barty opens title campaign with demolition job to outlast other world No.1

Ash Barty, Australian Open, featured, Tennis

Ash Barty avoided becoming the second world No.1 to be unceremoniously dumped from the 2022 Australian Open when she blitzed her way to a “brutal” 6-0 6-1 victory on Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.

With all the pre-tournament focus on men’s world No.1 Novak Djokovic’s ultimately unsuccessful fight to get a visa into the country, Barty gave Australia a much happier storyline with a straight-sets triumph over Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko.

There has been a lot of talk this week about how Barty has not received her due credit even though she is the epitome of what a sporting champion should be. Her humility and down-to-earth nature contrasts greatly with Djokovic’s reputation as a prickly customer who exhibits a win at all costs mentality.

Over the next fortnight, Barty has a chance to take all the attention from the Serbian star, who was deported in sensational circumstances after failing to meet Australia’s vaccination requirements.

The 25-year-Queenslander, who is the reigning Wimbledon champion after capturing her first grand slam at the French Open in 2019, has not been as dominant at her home major.

She has made the quarters the past three years but has only progressed to the semis once in 2020 when she lost to the eventual champion, American Sofia Kenin.

“This is beautiful, I’ve said it a few times but it felt like an eternity since I’ve been back on this beautiful court,” she said.

“Last year was just incredible, obviously highlighted by Wimbledon. It was a dream of mine and I was extremely fortunate that it came true. I had so much fun in that week and I’m just glad I was able to enjoy it with my team, everyone back here in Australia.

“It’s certainly nice to be back on home soil now and playing as well as I did tonight. It was a lot of fun out here.”

Barty started the match in imposing fashion – winning her first game without dropping a point then breaking her opponent, the same player she faced at Melbourne Park two years ago in the opening round. Barty lost the first set then, before she sailed through the next two 6-1 6-1.

She showed no such early problems this time around as her powerful ground strokes proved too much as Barty opened up a double break of serve over her opponent, who is ranked 113 in the world, well down from her career peak of 23 achieved three years ago.

Down 5-0 and serving to avoid losing the set to love, Tsurenko was pressured into even more unforced errors by Barty’s all-court game, hitting an easy forehand shot over the baseline to gift the crowd favourite an unblemished first set inside 24 minutes.

Barty was particularly savage on Tsurenko’s first serves, returning them without error as she added the first two games of the second set to the cakewalk.

“That’s just brutal” commentator Jelena Dokic enthused on Nine commentary as Barty unleashed another return down the line for a winner on the way to a 4-0 advantage.

How it unfolded: Barty’s big win over Tsurenko

The top seed aced her way to 5-0 but fell short of a flawless match, coughing up two match points as Tsurenko held serve for the first time to achieve a stay of execution at 5-1.

On her third match point, this time while serving, Barty finished off her opponent, delivering another booming serve to force another error and complete the demolition job in just 54 minutes.

“It was nice and clean. End to end I did a good job in adjusting. There is quite a bit of wind at court level here,” she said.

“Overall I thought I was able to find my forehands, control the court with my forehand. It was just nice and solid to get out here and play a decent match and feel like I enjoyed it. I think that’s the most important thing.”

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