TORONTO • Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty's US Open preparations hit a snag after she fell at the first hurdle at the Rogers Cup, but the Australian will not let it rattle her confidence for the year's final Grand Slam later this month.
Barty, who had a bye into the second round as top seed, was rusty and unable to adapt fast enough to the hard court, a surface she has not competed on since April, when she won the Miami Open.
She lost 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-4 to the 20-year-old American Sofia Kenin on Tuesday.
"At times I was missing by big margins, which is not something I'm very used to or comfortable with," she said. "But it's not panic stations. It's my first match on hard court in a long time."
The loss left her No. 1 ranking hanging by a thread. She will vacate the top spot if US Open and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka wins her second-round match this morning (Singapore time), or if Czech Karolina Pliskova reaches the semi-finals in Toronto.
But Barty said she was not worried about retaining her lofty ranking after this week.
"It's just a number next to your name. It doesn't define you as a person or a player," the 23-year-old said. "If next week I'm not No. 1, I'm certainly not going to lose any sleep over it."
She was able to take comfort in her fighting spirit, despite the loss.
This was Sofia Kenin's first win over a world No. 1.
World No. 29 Kenin broke twice early in the deciding third set to build a 4-1 lead, only for the French Open champion to hang on for dear life, before eventually running out of tricks on the fourth match point.
Said Barty: "I have no idea how I was able to get out of that first set and probably should have been 'bageled' in the second and done pretty quickly in the third, as well."
She played with tape on her right shoulder, which she played down as a preventive measure against the added stress from hitting balls that bounced higher in the last two days.
At the men's tournament in Montreal, Barty's compatriot Nick Kyrgios reverted to his volatile self in his first-round 6-3, 6-4 defeat by Briton Kyle Edmund.
The Australian, who behaved impeccably in winning the Washington Open last week, collected a code violation for an obscenity.
He had asked the umpire before the match for a white towel instead of the tournament's branded one and threw a tantrum when he realised five games into the match that his request had not been met.
"I'm not allowed to leave the chair," the umpire said after the 24-year-old angrily asked him to fetch the towel.
"You're telling me that you can't radio in just for one white towel?" a seething Kyrgios replied. A ball boy finally handed him a white towel.
Kyrgios' outburst comes after he seemed to be reinventing himself as a crowd favourite after his Wimbledon defeat by Rafael Nadal. He has fed off the crowd at subsequent tournaments, sharing jokes with fans and even asking them where he should serve.
ASSOCIATED PRESS, REUTERS
ATP ROGERS CUP
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