The top women’s seed of the 2021 US Open, Ashleigh Barty, did exactly what she was expected to do on Tuesday night in her first-round matchup against Vera Zvonareva, ranked No. 35 in the world. She won in straight sets.
But it was a tale of two sets for the Australian, who raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first before walking to a 6-1 win in just 24 minutes.
“Vera, without a doubt she’s an experienced campaigner. I think in the first set I served exceptionally well,” Barty said. “She was a little bit loose off her racquet and she gave me a few cheapies.”
The second set was a completely different story, as Zvonareva forced a tiebreak before falling 9-7 — though it was a small reminder that the 36-year-old had once been the No. 2 player in the world, making the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open 11 years ago.
“I think all in all being able to work my way around that and kind of get through that in straight sets was really pleasing,” Barty continued. “I think when my back was against the wall I came up with some really good stuff.
“That’s all we can ask when your back is against the wall.”
An early bobble won’t necessarily damage Barty’s hopes of winning her third Grand Slam title and her first US Open. She’s been one of the strongest women’s players this season, winning five tournaments including Wimbledon earlier this summer and the US Open tune-up in Cincinnati at the Western and Southern Open.
That latest triumph was an important opportunity to erase a disappointing performance at the Tokyo Olympics where she was bounced in the first round by No. 48 Sara Sorribes Tormo.
“I think all in all I felt like I was able to find some good tennis when it mattered most,” Barty said. “I started well and in the end was able to play some good, aggressive tennis towards the end of the match.”
She’ll face Clara Tauson, an 18-year-old from Denmark ranked 78th in the world, on Thursday.