MELBOURNE – A red-hot Ashleigh Barty said hard work during her extended off-season had primed her for an Australian Open assault after the top seed delivered a masterclass to crush Danka Kovinic.
It was a near-flawless performance from the 24-year-old Australian, who won the first 16 points en route to a 6-0, 6-0 first-round romp in 44 minutes.
Barty entered her home Slam having won the warm-up Yarra Valley Classic in her first tournament in 11 months, after she opted to remain home during the pandemic – even deciding against defending her French Open crown.
Barty enjoyed the rarity of extra family time during her breather, but also worked tirelessly on the practice courts.
“I know deep down my team and I have done the work,” she said. “We’ve earned the right to play at this level.
“I think knowing that we’ve done the work during pre-season… I feel comfortable in my own skin to go out there and find a way.
“I know I’ve got other weapons that I can go to. I want to challenge myself to be the complete player.”
Barty, hoping to break her country’s 43-year singles title curse at the Australian Open, never gave 82nd-ranked Kovinic a chance, rolling through a lopsided first set in just 19 minutes.
She continued to hit the lines and overwhelm the errant Montenegrin, who had 28 unforced errors and won just 10 points in total.
“I wanted to go out there and almost take the sting, take the pepper out of the match a little bit and get it on my terms as much as possible,” she said.
“Right from the start I set the tone and was able to run away with it.
“To be able to roll with the momentum throughout the whole match was really good.” Expectations are high for Barty to end her country’s jinx after falling short in the semi-finals to eventual champion Sofia Kenin at last year’s Australian Open, her best performance at Melbourne Park.
She plays Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo or compatriot Daria Gavrilova in the second round.