A Barty d. L Kumkhum 6-2, 6-2
Australia’s Ashleigh Barty won in the first round of the Australian Open.
This might not sound like a news story for Australia’s top-ranked woman, but with Australian tennis players at home nothing can be taken for granted.
Hitherto the early rounds have not been kind to Australia’s top women. Sorry, Sam Stosur, but the record was not great.
So Barty’s efficient work in overcoming Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum – ranked 66th in the world – was meritorious on that basis. It was even more so on the basis of the relaxed self-assurance of her game.
Barty had the most gentle of early stumbles, being broken in her first service game. But she steadied confidently to win the next six straight games to sweep through the first set.
She was ruthless on Margaret Court Arena, winning 6-2 6-2 in less than an hour.
“It took me a while to adjust to the court and a few things but I feel like I am hitting the ball well so I am happy to get through in pretty straightforward fashion,” Barty said.
It was just the tonic for the Australian after the arduous effort in losing the final of the Sydney International in an epic three-set match.
That, Barty said, was a nice problem to have.
“You know any time you enter a tournament before a slam, there’s always the possibility you’ll be arriving late. It’s a very good problem to have,” she said.
The burden of being the local hero and carrying the country’s hopes into the local tournament has laboured other players, but Barty wore the attention lightly.
“Australians are hungry for sport. They love it. They’re addicted to it. I think at this time of the year it always floats around with tennis that they’re looking for an Australian player, in particular, to go deep and have a really good run,” she explained.
“I don’t think you do (feel it). I think for me it’s more about focusing on what I can with my tennis and my game, then going out there on the court and trying to enjoy it, embrace it, and play
Barty’s coach, Craig Tyzzer, was unable to be in the stands, but it was a minor hiccup to the night.
“The work is done. I know Tyz is watching,” Barty said. “I know I’ll speak to him like we would debrief any other match. He just wasn’t physically in the stands today … I’m extremely lucky to have a Fed Cup captain like Mol (Alicia Molik) who can step in and help out. It’s a very seamless transition.”
Later, reigning open champion Caroline Wozniacki defeated Belgian Alison Van Uytvanok in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4.
Michael Gleeson is a senior AFL football writer and Fairfax Media’s athletics writer. He also covers tennis, cricket and other sports. He won the AFL Players Association Grant Hattam Trophy for excellence in journalism for the second time in 2014 and was a finalist in the 2014 Quill Awards for best sports feature writer. He was also a finalist in the 2014 Australian Sports Commission awards for his work on ‘Boots for Kids’. He is a winner of the AFL Media Association award for best news reporter and a two-time winner of Cricket Victoria’s cricket writer of the year award. Michael has covered multiple Olympics, Commonwealth Games and world championships and 15 seasons of AFL, He has also written seven books – five sports books and two true crime books.