From clay to grass, Barty looks sharp

Ashleigh Barty on the way to beating Donna Vekic in the second round of the Birmingham Classic yesterday. The Australian world No. 2 will be among the favourites at Wimbledon next month.
Ashleigh Barty on the way to beating Donna Vekic in the second round of the Birmingham Classic yesterday. The Australian world No. 2 will be among the favourites at Wimbledon next month.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • French Open champion Ashleigh Barty made a smooth transition from Parisian clay to British lawns as the Australian opened her grass-court campaign at the Birmingham Classic with an impressive 6-3, 6-4 victory over Croatia's Donna Vekic yesterday.

In her first match since winning her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros about two weeks ago, the world No. 2 began sluggishly, but quickly found her rhythm to move through to the last 16.

Barty, who will be one of the favourites for Wimbledon which starts on July 1, said her opponent had been the "perfect test".

"I knew that I had to be sharp and I had to be ready. Otherwise it wouldn't even be a contest," she said in her on-court interview.

"It was nice and clean today out here. I was just really excited to come back out and kind of dust off the cobwebs a little bit."

While Barty's French Open title had been somewhat unexpected, seeing as she is not a renowned clay-court player, grass, on the other hand, is tailor-made for her serve-and-volley game, which is why all eyes will be on her at the All England Club in London.

Although the odds are against her following up her Roland Garros victory by lifting the Wimbledon title, compatriot Nick Kyrgios believes "she's gonna pile them (Grand Slam) up".

Having travelled the global circuit together as juniors, the world No. 39 Kyrgios knows her strengths better than most.

The fiery Australian insisted Barty is "probably the most talented tennis player I have seen in a long time".

He added: "I always knew that she was going to be a champion at some stage, just how bad she wanted it.

"Obviously, she took that break (to become a cricketer) to get her mind right and step back from the sport, and then she came back and was so dominant.

"I actually think she's probably one of the favourites for Wimbledon, for sure. Australia has been waiting for that next player to win a Grand Slam and she was our best chance. She's amazing."

Only six women - Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams - have managed to win both the French Open and Wimbledon in succession in the professional era.

Barty will continue to hone her grass-court skills today against American Jennifer Brady, who beat Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko 6-3, 6-3 yesterday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2019, with the headline 'From clay to grass, Barty looks sharp'. Print Edition | Subscribe