The best in the game have a knack for stepping up when it really matters and Ashleigh Barty justified her standing as one of the teenagers to watch with a straight-sets victory over aggressive Ukrainian Lyudmyla Kichenok on Tuesday.
After winning junior Wimbledon three years ago, Barty has shot up the doubles rankings, reaching three of the four Grand Slam finals with countrywoman Casey Dellacqua last year.
Her singles transition, however, has been steady. She earned a wild card to make her main-draw debut at SW19 a year later, but bombed out in the first round of qualifying to veteran Frenchwoman Stephanie Foretz Gacon in 2013.
The 18-year-old now stands one match from a second main-draw berth after the 6-3, 7-5 victory at Roehampton. It was a matter of patience against the flat-hitting world No.167.
“Yeah it’s really exciting. I played well today and it’s nice to build on that match yesterday,” Barty said. “Absolutely, it’s one of those matches where you’ve just got to bide your time and wait for your opportunity. If you can keep turning up for each point eventually you’ll get an opportunity, whether it be from them missing a ball or a short second serve or something like that. I’m just really pleased to get through in straight sets.”
Having won the aforementioned junior Wimbledon title and reached the doubles final last year, the talented Australian is clearly at home on grass. A singles breakthrough at SW19 would be the ultimate reward.
“Absolutely, I love playing at Wimbledon. It’s the best tournament of the year. It’s the most iconic tournament in tennis,” Barty said. “Obviously, last year Casey and I had a bit of success so it’d be nice to get some success on the singles court as well. Hopefully I can play a good match tomorrow and we’ll see how it goes.”
Having taken the first set relatively comfortably, the pair stood toe-to-toe on serve until 5-5 in the second, with Barty having trouble stamping her authority. But back-to-back forehand and backhand winners would secure the only break of the second set for 6-5 and the chance to serve it out.
Barty brought up match point with a low slice backhand skidding off the grass to draw the easy forehand volley. She would take it on her second opportunity with an off-forehand winner.
Elsewhere, former world No.21 Aleksandra Wozniak continued her comeback from a shoulder injury with a tough 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Japan’s Mayo Hibi. The Canadian has reached the second round at Wimbledon three times and will play 2009 US Open quarter-finalist Melanie Oudin for a place in the main draw.
Oudin, a former world No.31, had few troubles upsetting fifth-seeded Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru 6-4, 6-2. The 1.68m American reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2009.
Having sent Maria Sharapova crashing out at Wimbledon last year, Portuguese No.4 seed Michelle Larcher de Brito moved to within one match of a return to the main draw after a convincing 6-4, 6-2 result against Czech former world No.41 Lucie Hradecka. Poland's Paula Kania upset French No.7 seed Claire Feuerstein 7-5, 6-4, while two-time former Wimbledon quarter-finalist Tamira Paszek dismissed Italian Alberta Brianti 6-0, 7-6(2). Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko put out Japan's Ayumi Morita 7-6(4), 6-1.
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