Australia’s Ashleigh Barty has survived a major scare in her opening round match against Lesia Tsurenko, coming back from a set down to prevail.
The No.1 seed in this year’s women’s singles draw, Barty ran the risk of becoming the first women’s top seed to lose in the first round of the Australian Open since Romania’s Virginia Ruzici back in 1979, before ultimately winning 5-7 6-1 6-1.
Despite giving all of Australia a major scare, Barty revealed that she was never really worried, even after dropping the opening set of the match.
“It was all good,” she said when asked what went through her mind after dropping the opening set.
“It’s amazing to be out here. Obviously it’s a tight turnaround from Adelaide.”
Barty admitted that her confidence was due to her own errors in the opening set rather than being worked around the court by Tsurenko.
“It was nice to sort it out a bit more in the second set. I sharpened up and did what I needed to do,” she said.
“In the first set it was still in my control. It was just my execution and I was rushing a bit.
“(After the opening set) I was able to look after my service games a bit better and not get behind.”
This year’s Australian Open is Barty’s first home Grand Slam since her meteoric rise in the last 12 months and she described being able to walk out at Rod Laver Arena as the No.1 seed as “absolutely incredible”.
“This is probably the moment I’ve been looking forward to the most. I couldn’t wait to walk out on the court to all this support.”
The match begun in ominous fashion for Barty, with her unseeded opponent breaking her serve in the opening game of the match.
After looking like she had shaken off her poor start to the match by breaking Tsurenko’s serve, Barty’s problems with unforced errors continued to hamper her in the opening set.
With both players struggling for consistency, Tsurenko capitalised on a lacklustre Barty in the opening set, breaking the No.1 seed’s serve three times to take the first set 7-5.
Incredibly Tsurenko’s first set win came despite Barty lashing six more winners than the Ukrainian.
With Barty spraying the ball all over the court in the opening set and increasingly struggling with her first serve, Tsurenko capitalised on the Australian’s second serve, winning 10 out of 13 points in the opening set.
However, after the disappointment of the opening set, Barty took a stranglehold of the second set immediately, racing to a 3-0 lead inside 10 minutes.
Much like Barty’s own first set performance, Tsurenko was hampered by 13 unforced errors in the second set to Barty’s five as she succumbed 6-1.
Barty has become one of Australia’s most loved athletes over the last 12 months due to her humble nature off the court, and she displayed it in a crucial juncture of the match in the second set.
Ash Barty’s act of class
With the Australian holding a 3-1 lead and looking to get back into the match, a ballgirl fumbled a ball and took a fall while attempting to run off the court, as Barty paused her serve to check on the ballgirl.
With Barty having all the momentum heading into the deciding set, she broke Tsurenko’s serve in the opening game, with the Ukrainian continuing to be hampered by double faults.
Barty began the final set in the same fashion as the second set, racing to a 4-0 lead, making the remainder of the match academic.
Unfortunately for Tsurenko, despite her bright opening, it was somewhat fitting that her night came to an end with yet another double fault to give Barty what was ultimately a comfortable win.