Barty stuns Hantuchova, wins fourth straight match
UPDATE: Ash Barty has scored a magnificent upset win over Daniela Hantuchova in the opening round of the Brisbane International.
World No.4 Maria Sharapova hailed Ashleigh Barty a future star of tennis after the Queensland teenager set-up a Brisbane International second round clash with the Russian on Monday.
Barty claimed arguably the biggest win of her brief career with a 6-3 7-5 victory over former world No.5 Daniel Hantuchova at Pat Rafter Arena, shortly before Sharapova cruised past France’s Caroline Garcia with a 6-3 6-0 win.
Barty had already come through three rounds of qualifying just to take her place in the main draw, and even had to save five match points in her final round qualifying match against Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens.
Sharapova, who famously won Wimbledon at 17 in 2004, said while she had only seen a little of Barty’s play, the Australian’s three Grand Slam finals doubles appearances alongside Casey Dellacqua this year marked her as a special talent.
Barty was playing in just her 15th main draw match in a top level singles tournament against Hantuchova, who has played over 770 top-tier singles clashes in her career.
But for the first time in eight attempts Barty overcame a top-50 ranked opponent and Sharapova was a little wary of the unknown against the Queenslander.
“I was never much of a doubles player, so I consider it pretty amazing what she’s been able to do at her age,” Sharapova said.
“She is another future star and someone that I’ve seen grow up from the juniors and now onto the tour.
“She’s already played a few matches, four, I believe, here. For me, it’s my second match … a great opportunity for me to go out there and play another match against a tough opponent, also a tougher crowd as well, which is understandable.
“It’ll be fun.”
Barty, just eight when Sharapova was winning her maiden grand slam as a teenager, admitted she hadn’t watched that 2004 win.
Her reluctance to watch tennis aside from her own matches is similar to how a young Sharapova handled the pressure of rising to the top in the game.
“That’s the way to do it,” Barty said.
“You really have to be focused on your job and game and not worry about anyone else’s results. You create your own path.”
Barty’s doubles partner, West Australian Casey Dellacqua, also faces a daunting second round match-up after defeating Kazakhstan’s Galina Voskoboeva 3-6 6-2 6-3 to set up a clash with world No.2 Victoria Azarenka.
Other winners in Monday’s action included former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic, 2012 Brisbane winner Kaia Kanepi, German fifth seed Angelique Kerber and Spanish eighth seed Carla Suarez Navarro.
Jankovic, Kanepi and Navarro will all be back in action on Tuesday, while world No.1 Serena Williams begins her tournament against popular German Andrea Petkovic in the afternoon.