ROME, Italy -- No.8 seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia came back from a set down to defeat Slovakia's Viktoria Kuzmova, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, and reach the third round at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Tuesday.
Barty, this year's Miami Open champion, has still not lost to a player ranked outside of the Top 10 since last September. The World No.9 dropped the first set to the powerful Kuzmova but stayed sturdy and attained the crucial break late in the third set to earn victory after two hours and six minutes.
Barty finished the clash with 33 winners, including 10 aces, to 26 unforced errors. The Australian converted six of her 12 break points, while Kuzmova, ranked at a career-high World No.43, was less successful in that metric, taking five out of her 13 opportunities to break.
In the third round, Barty will face the winner of the second-round match between Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and Kristina Mladenovic of France.
Half of the ten games in the first set went against serve, and it could have been more had Barty not fended off four break points to hold her serve for 4-3, while she was already down a break. Barty was then able to get level at 4-4 in the opener after Kuzmova double faulted on break point.
But the big-hitting Kuzmova quickly reclaimed her advantage in the following game, as Barty squandered game point and double faulted on break point herself, ceding the 5-4 lead to Kuzmova. The Slovak raced to a love hold for the one-set lead, closing out the opening frame with three points won via incredible serving.
In the second set, though, it was Barty who turned the momentum in her favor. The Australian had to squeeze through a massive six-deuce opening game to hold, saving three break points in the process, but once she did, she used her wily game to crack open a 3-0 lead.
Kuzmova used deep forehands to get back on serve at 3-2, but the Slovak immediately fell behind again, dropping serve in the next game with consecutive double faults on the final two points. Barty maintained control from there, holding at love for 5-2, then using stellar serving to close out the set two games later, punctuating the second stanza with an ace.
In the decider, Kuzmova went up a break at 2-0 after Barty doubles faulted once more on break point, but the Australian remained calm and broke back in the very next game, as Kuzmova mistimed multiple backhand miscues. Both players got through tight service games at they reached the set’s midpoint deadlocked at 3-3.
After holding for 4-4 with an ace, Barty took initiative, earning a break point with a winning dropshot, then garnering the crucial service break with a scintillating forehand crosscourt pass for a winner. At 5-4, the Australian used a perfect lob and two service winners to reach triple match point, and Kuzmova netted a return on the second one, giving Barty victory.
More to follow....