MELBOURNE, Australia - WTA World No.1 Ashleigh Barty put on a dominant display out on Rod Laver Arena, needing two sets to see off Polona Hercog and move into the third round.
After cruising in the opening set, the reigning French Open champion had to battle through the second as her opponent found her range. Barty struck 16 winners to Hercog’s 12, and served up five aces across the two sets en route to a solid 6-1, 6-4 victory.
“I think you feel more comfortable every day,” Barty said in her post-match press conference. “Every time you're able to win a match, you have another opportunity to try and be that little bit better, to try to be that little bit more sharp and clean.
“I felt like I started a lot better today, and then the second set, as well, was able to get out of some sticky service games towards the end of the set there.”
Coming into Melbourne, Barty shook off an opening-round loss in Brisbane and went on to claim her first WTA title on home soil at the Adelaide International. She hopes to repeat the feat this fortnight as well and become the first Aussie since 1978 to lift the trophy at home.
She looked every bit the champion as she powered through the opening set against Hercog on Wednesday, breaking early to start the match with a comfortable 3-0 lead.
Barty’s all-court coverage kept Hercog on the back foot and unable to make any inroads on the Aussie’s serve. After creating three more break opportunities, Barty broke once more to extend her lead to 5-1 and quickly served out the opening set.
The Aussie faced more of a fight-back in the second set as Hercog settled into the match, finally fighting her way to a pair of break points at 0-1 - her first two chances on the Barty serve. Barty held on, and the pair wrestled for the momentum as the next few games went comfortably to the server.
Hercog once again found a way to put Barty under pressure, earning two more break points at 3-4, but the World No.1 again held firm. This time, Barty took the decisive break late in the set to make it 5-4, and had to fight off two more break points as she served out the match, claiming the victory in 66 minutes.
“it was good to play the big points well. But I think all three of those games were 15-40, which is not really an opportunity I want to give to my opponent, three back-to-back service games, I think it was,” Barty said, recalling her opponent’s six break opportunities in set two.
“Obviously nice to be able to get out of those. In those points my structure of points was a lot better. I probably should have done those earlier in the service games. But that was also something I did very well in the first set was get ahead in my own service games and then put the pressure straight back on my opponent.”
Into the third round for the fourth consecutive time, Barty awaits winner between Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen and No.29 seed Elena Rybakina.
“It's just more opportunities. It's more experience, more learnings, more everything from every time that I'm kind of thrown into a new situation,” Barty said.
“I mean, it's going to be no different for whoever my next opponent is. It may be a first for them, but they'll be ready, they'll learn from it, they'll enjoy it, experience it, everything that you need to do to kind of be out there.”