Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 11, 2021 Australia’s Ashleigh Barty celebrates after winning her second round match against Australia’s Daria Gavrilova REUTERS/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake
February 11, 2021
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – World number one Ash Barty suffered a meltdown on the brink of victory but regathered herself to fend off local compatriot Daria Gavrilova 6-1 7-6(7) and reach the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday.
Barty, who came onto centre court with her left thigh heavily strapped, served for the match at 5-2 but was broken twice in a hail of unforced errors, allowing wildcard Gavrilova to drag the contest deep into a tiebreak.
Fortunately for Barty, Gavrilova reprieved her twice with unforced errors on set point and then coughed up another on match point to surrender on a steamy day at Rod Laver Arena.
Having destroyed first round opponent Danka Kovinic 6-0 6-0 in 44 minutes, Barty said her slump against Gavrilova was par for the course after missing almost the entire 2020 season.
“I think it’s natural,” the top seed told reporters.
“I mean, I haven’t played a lot of tennis over the last 12 months. Obviously (I’m) going to have ebbs and flows, not only in your concentration but your level of play as well.
“It’s important to be able to bring that back as often as possible. For a couple of games, I wasn’t able to do that.”
Barty said she had tweaked a muscle in her leg when warming up for her first round match on Tuesday but downplayed the injury.
“The bandage is very big, but that’s more just support so that the tape itself doesn’t fall off,” she said.
“It’s not a very subtle tape job, you often see it on a lot of the girls. The guys can hide it beneath their shorts a little bit better.
“Obviously it’s not affecting the way that I can play in any way.”
Barty, who will face Russian 29th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova for a place in the fourth round, reached the semi-finals last year only to be shocked by surprise winner Sofia Kenin when seemingly on the verge of ending Australia’s long wait for a home winner.
The last Australian to win the singles title was Chris O’Neil in 1978.
Kenin was knocked out by Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi on Thursday, meaning Barty avoids a semi-final re-match with the American.
The Australian said Kenin’s demise did not affect her “whatsoever.”
“No disrespect to anyone, but I don’t look much at the schedule,” she said.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; editing by Richard Pullin)