Wimbledon: Ashleigh Barty up and running as world number one

Nerves were evident at times, but Ashleigh Barty came through unscathed against Zheng Saisai at Wimbledon.

World number one Ashleigh Barty showed no signs of the arm injury that kept her out of the Nature Valley International as she reached the second round of Wimbledon 2019.   -  Getty Images

Ashleigh Barty enjoyed a winning start to life as the world number one, beating Zheng Saisai 6-4 6-2 in her Wimbledon opener on Tuesday.

Playing for the first time as the WTA Tour's top-ranked star, Barty came through a nervy first set to saunter through on Court No.1 at the All England Club. The French Open champion showed no signs of the arm injury that kept her out of the Nature Valley International as she dictated play in the second.

With victory, Barty avoided following previous number one Naomi Osaka out of the competition and instead booked a second-round meeting with Alison van Uytvanck.

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After the upsets of the opening day's play, with Venus Williams also beaten by 15-year-old Cori Gauff, Barty sought to swiftly ensure she would not similarly fall foul of a more modest opponent. And the Australian led early when Zheng sent a forehand wide to the left.

But that advantage was cancelled out in a fifth game that saw Zheng create three break-point opportunities, finally converting when Barty followed up a meek drop shot at deuce with a wayward close-range effort.

Barty dug in brilliantly, though, and took the set with a straightforward break to love at the end of a testing stretch.

Then, as in the opener, the top seed turned up the heat on Zheng right away to lead following an extended second game and this time gave the Chinese no opportunity to respond. A second Barty match point was then seized with a superb stretching return on Zheng's serve to complete victory in straight sets.

"I think, for me, it's a little bit irrelevant," said Barty after the win. "The only pressure I have is what I put on myself, making sure I'm doing all the right things, preparing in the right way.

"Ultimately, when we play our matches, we go out there and enjoy it. That's why we do all the work, all the practices, to go out there and enjoy competing."

She added: "The first round is always very tough. It took time to get used to the conditions and the beautiful court with the new roof.

"It feels incredible. It is a little bizarre [to be number one], but this sacred turf we get to play on, you have to enjoy every minute of it."

Barty will not look too far ahead, either, or allow herself to dream of a second consecutive grand slam title just yet.

"For me, it's a possibility," the Australian said. "But it's certainly not something we're thinking about.

"It's about going match by match, trying to do the best that I can in every single tennis match that we play here. If we can give ourselves the opportunity, that would be great," she said.


Ashleigh Barty [1] bt Zheng Saisai 6-4 6-2


Barty - 16/20
Zheng - 11/24


Barty - 1/4
Zheng - 0/3


Barty - 4/7
Zheng - 1/3


Barty - 56
Zheng - 72


Barty - 86/57
Zheng - 53/41


Barty - 68
Zheng - 44