Australian Open: Barty wobbles before reaching third round

The World No. 1 survives a shaky tiebreaker to beat fellow Australian Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 7-6 (7).

Ashleigh Barty waves to the crowd after defeating Daria Gavrilova in the second round of the Australian Open. - AP

No. 1-ranked Ashleigh Barty carries the hopes of her homeland at the Australian Open, which may be why she stumbled before closing out a second-round win on Thursday. Barty blew a big lead in the second set and survived a shaky tiebreaker to beat fellow Aussie Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 7-6 (7).

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Barty is trying to become the first Australian to win the women’s title at Melbourne since Chris O’Neil in 1978. “It’s a different challenge every single day,” Barty said. “It’s trying to be the best I can every single day, whatever that level is.”

Other winners included former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova and American Shelby Rogers.

Feliciano Lopez, at 39 the oldest player in the men’s draw, rallied past No. 31 Lorenzo Sonego 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Lopez is appearing at his 75th consecutive Grand Slam singles event, a men’s record.

Barty lost only 10 points in the opening round, and her match against Gavrilova was equally lopsided until the wobbly finish. She led 5-2 in the second set but was broken twice serving for the victory. In the tiebreaker Barty lost several ugly points. Gavrilova, a wild card, failed to convert two set points and committed unforced errors to end the final three rallies.

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The two friends then shared a hug at the net.

“When you play another Aussie, rankings go out the window, experience goes out the window,” Barty said. “Typically you know each other so well. It’s always going to be a tricky match.”

Rogers reached the third round at the Australian Open for the first time by beating Olga Danilovic 6-2, 6-3. Rogers, 28, came into the tournament with a career record of 1-4 in Melbourne, but her ranking and fortunes have been on the rise of late. She reached the quarterfinals at the US Open for the first time last September, and her year-end ranking was a career-best No. 58. Rogers was sidelined for 14 months by a knee injury sustained in early 2018, and her ranking at the end of that year was 780th.

 

She had little trouble with Danilovic, a qualifier from Serbia ranked 183rd. The small crowd on Court 3 included Novak Djokovic, who sat behind the baseline shouting encourage to his fellow Serb.

Pliskova beats Collins

Pliskova, seeded sixth, advanced by beating American Danielle Collins 7-5, 6-2. Pliskova lost serve twice in a seesaw first set but pulled it out and then pulled away to beat Collins, a 2019 semifinalist at Melbourne Park.

Pliskova has won 65 matches in Grand Slams but is still seeking her first major title. She was runner-up to Angelique Kerber at the 2016 US Open. No. 11 Belinda Bencic outlasted Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, and No. 18 Elise Mertens defeated Zhu Lin 7-6 (8), 6-1.

In men’s play, No. 7 Andrey Rublev swept Thiago Monteiro 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (8).

Svitolina beats Gauff in second round

Fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina beat 16-year-old Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-3 in the second round of the Australian Open.

Svitolina has reached the quarterfinals in Australia twice and showed her experience as she took on Gauff for the first time. She made the most of her only break-point chance in the second set to take a 5-3 lead and then served it out.

Svitolina will play No. 26-seeded Yulia Putintseva in the third round.

Gauff was the youngest player in the women’s draw. She was unable to repeat her performances from her breakout major in Melbourne last year. She reached the round of 16 at the 2020 Australian Open with wins over Venus Williams and Naomi Osaka before losing to eventual champion Sofia Kenin.

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