LONDON (AFP) - Ashleigh Barty's bid to win Wimbledon, half a century after fellow indigenous Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley won her first singles title, got off to a winning start on Tuesday (June 29) with a 6-1, 6-7 (1/7), 6-1 victory over Carla Suarez Navarro.
The 25-year-old top seed has never been beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon but two breaks of serve in the first set and then one at 4-4 in the second seemed to have set her up with a routine victory.
However, with errors creeping into Barty's game Spaniard Suarez Navarro broke back and the set went into a tie-break.
Suarez Navarro - who has only returned to play in recent months after battling cancer - dominated it and held five set points taking it with the first one 7-6 (7/1).
Barty, though, pulled herself together and played more like the world number one she is in the deciding set.
She showed little sign of the hip injury that forced her to retire from the French Open and made no mistake when holding three match points, taking victory with her first one.
Barty praised Suarez Navarro after the 32-year-old had walked off court to a standing ovation on what is her 11th and final appearance at The Championships.
Suarez Navarro - whose mother Maris had been taking photos of her daughter and shed a tear as she left the court - is ending her career this year with the Olympics in Tokyo and the US Open left on her schedule.
"It was incredible to share the court with Carla after her incredible career got a little bit longer," said Barty.
"She is a fighter, an incredible competitor and lovely person and I cannot find one bad word to say about her.
"She is a geniune champion and will be sorely missed."
Barty had no warm-up tournaments prior to Wimbledon due to her injury but said her body was feeling fine.
She said she had been honoured to open Centre Court play on Tuesday in place of defending champion Simona Halep who withdrew last Friday due to a calf injury.
Barty had prepared her own tribute to Cawley - who is a mentor and close friend - by wearing a dress inspired by the iconic scallop design worn by her compatriot when she won in 1971.
"This is the very least I could do as a tribute to a champion on the 50th anniversary of her title," said Barty.
"To wear one after her iconic dress is special and I hope in a very small way makes her proud."