Madrid, Apr 29 (EFE).- Australian world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty continued her strong run of form with a surprisingly routine 6-2, 6-1 first-round victory Thursday over American Shelby Rogers at the Mutua Madrid Open, putting herself one win away from a potential blockbuster round-of-16 clash against reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek.
Fresh off capturing an indoor-clay title in Stuttgart last Sunday, Barty was her efficient best on serve inside Manolo Santana Stadium and that provided a lift to the other aspects of her game.
Whether opening up the court with her lethal cross-court forehand, making effective use of both her topspin and slice backhands or leveraging her underrated defense to win points from difficult positions, Barty never gave her big-hitting opponent a chance to sink her teeth into the contest.
The world No. 1 put more than 76 percent of her first serves in play, struck eight aces and won all but two of her first-serve points.
“Every time you step out on the court against Shelby, you really need to be switched on, play your very best because she has the ability to take the match away from you very quickly,” said Barty, who ran her career record against the American to 5-0, with four of those victories coming this year.
Next up for the 2021 Miami Open champion in the round of 32 will be Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek, who followed up her victory over Su-Wei Hsieh 24 hours earlier in the qualifying round by defeating the Taiwanese player on Thursday 6-2, 6-4.
While the humble Barty will not be overlooking her 80th-ranked rival, all eyes are on a possible clay-court showdown between the winner of the 2019 French Open and Swiatek, who became Poland’s first-ever Grand Slam singles champion when she stormed her way to the Roland Garros title last October without dropping a set.
The 17th-ranked Swiatek had not played a match on clay since, but she didn’t miss a beat on Thursday in a 6-1, 6-1 rout of American Alison Riske.
Swiatek was on fire with her return game, winning almost half of Riske’s first-serve points and more than 70 percent of her opponent’s second-serve points.
“I always miss clay. I’m always sad that it’s only … two months during the season when we’re playing on clay, so I would like to appreciate every moment on this surface,” she said after her first-ever match at the Madrid Open. “For sure the balls are going pretty high because of the air here. Madrid is (above sea level). It’s totally different” from tournaments at lower altitude like the French Open.
The 19-year-old Polish star will next take on Germany’s Laura Siegemund in the round of 32.
In other first-round action on Thursday, Spain’s Paula Badosa showed more evidence of her clay-court prowess in a 6-1, 7-5 victory over the Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova.
A semifinalist earlier this year in both Lyon and Charleston, Badosa will next take on Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann, who saved six match points en route to a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) upset of fifth-ranked Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.
Also winning their opening matches at this WTA Premier Mandatory event on Thursday were 10th-ranked defending champion Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands and 11th-ranked Swiss Belinda Bencic. EFE
By Santiago Aparicio