Former Grand Slam champion Ash Barty emerged from her COVID-imposed tennis shell with a quick win into the fourth round of the Miami Masters on Saturday.
Top seed Barty, winner of Roland Garros in 2019, crushed fellow ex-Paris champion (2017) Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-2 in 71 minutes in the day’s first match, an unusual placement for a top seed.
“I felt a lot sharper, switched on and ready to go from the first point,” she said, adding that the 11 a.m. start did not bother her at all.
“We’re early risers at home, in summer the sun is up by 4:30 in Brisbane, so we’re early birds.”
Barty was playing only her second match outside of Australia, where she retreated a year ago when the pandemic shut down tennis for five months.
But upon the restart of the Tour, she opted not to defend her title Paris title, with Iga Swiatek taking that crown; Barty also skipped the US Open played behind closed doors in New York last September.
The Queenslander did not leave Brisbane until last week, when she ventured onto a plane with her team for the arduous flight to Florida.
She is still shaking some of the rust out of her game, but showed massive improvement after facing a match point in her opening contest against Slovak Kristina Kucova.
The pressure is on the Australian with Naomi Osaka closing in her the No. 1 ranking and needing to reach the final here to have a chance.
Against Ostapenko, Barty ended with five aces and four double-faults while breaking the 54th-ranked Latvian on four occasions.
“My goal now is to bring my tennis back to my tempo and my rhythm as often as possible.
“Ostapenko can take that away from you, I needed to be patient and make sure to neutralise her to bring things back to my favour.”
Main photo:- Ash Barty floats into fourth round – by WTA Tennis.com