Ashleigh Barty survived a first-set stumble to storm to an Australian Open first round win over Lesia Tsurenko.
The world No 1 responded in ruthless fashion after losing the first set against the Ukrainian, running away with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 victory at Rod Laver Arena. Barty, 23, who is bidding for her first title at Melbourne Park, was the only Australian to book a victory in a rain-interrupted day one.
Tsurenko put up a strong challenge given she had hardly played in the past year due to an elbow injury, which saw her ranking slump from a career-high world No 23 to 120. But Barty said she felt in control throughout the match despite the first set hiccup.
“I think in the first set, it was still in my control,” said the 23-year-old. “I was just rushing a little bit, trying to finish off points too early. Once I was able to get my physicality into it, I felt a lot more comfortable and I think I was able to look after my service games a little better, and not get behind in the set which was important. At the start of the second set, I sharpened up and did what I needed to do.”
Barty’s fightback has become a trademark. Last year she racked up an unrivalled 13 victories from a set down en route to her No 1 status and French Open crown.
Samantha Stosur’s run of Australian Open first round losses has stretched to five straight years with the veteran falling to American qualifier Caty McNally on Monday night. In a repeat of last year’s first-round shocker, Stosur had no answer to the talented 18-year-old, going down 6-1, 6-4 to continue her painful run at the first grand slam of the year.
Playing in her first Australian Open, world No 116 McNally looked fearless as she attacked Stosur’s big serve and delivered some strong net play. Former US champion Stosur, who is now ranked 99, was hampered by 39 unforced errors which effectively ruined her 18th Melbourne Park appearance.
Stosur had a chance to get back into the match in the second set, breaking back and then levelling at 4-4. But McNally held serve before breaking the 35-year-old again to take the victory. Stosur’s loss continued a mostly miserable opening day for the Australian contingent.
Wildcard Lizette Cabrera admitted her American opponent Ann Li was braver when it mattered most after letting a golden opportunity for a maiden Australian Open victory go begging. The 22-year-old Australian served for both sets against the US qualifier in the opening round but was broken on each occasion in a 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (12-10) loss. The 22-year-old showed plenty of pluck in the second-set tiebreak, saving five match points before Li finally claimed the victory on her grand slam debut after a brief rain delay.
“I was pretty disappointed with today’s match,” Cabrera said. “I did have a lot of opportunities. Ann’s a good friend, she played really well and was braver in the bigger moments. But I’m still happy with the way I competed and fought even though it wasn’t my best tennis.”
Fellow Australians Andrew Harris and John-Patrick Smith also crashed out at the first hurdle. Harris, the 25-year-old son of former Australian Open quarter-finalist Anne Minter, bowed out 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 to Italian No 8 seed Matteo Berrettini. Harris was awarded a wildcard to the Open after enjoying a career-best 2019 campaign which saw his ranking slashed from No.400 to 162.
Smith was also beaten in straight sets. The 30-year-old wildcard play-off winner lost 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 to No.22 seed Guido Pella from Argentina. Smith has now lost all six of his main-draw singles matches at the majors.