Barty beats Gavrilova in Madrid opener
Ash Barty begins her campaign at the Madrid Open by dropping just three games against fellow Aussie Daria Gavrilova.
Ashleigh Barty’s quest to secure an all-important top-eight French Open seeding opened with an impressive straight sets win over Fed Cup teammate Daria Gavrilova at the Madrid Open.
Fresh off her Fed Cup heroics in Brisbane, Barty launched her clay court season in style with an emphatic 6-1 6-2 triumph in the Spanish capital on Saturday.
Her fourth victory from five meetings with Gavrilova presents Barty with a big opportunity to pick up priceless ranking points ahead of the season’s second Grand Slam starting in Paris on 26 May.
So tight it is at the top of women’s tennis that less than 2,000 ranking points separates world No.1 Naomi Osaka and the ninth-ranked Barty.
That equates to two tournament wins between now and Roland Garros.
Barty arrived in Spain in the form of her career, riding a nine-match winning streak entering the European clay-court swing.
The 22-year-old backed up her breakout triumph at last month’s Miami Open – long regarded as the ‘fifth major’ – with victories over dual Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and world No.10 Aryna Sabalenka in Australia’s Fed Cup semifinal success against Belarus.
She also teamed with Sam Stosur to clinch the tie with victory over Azarenka and Sabalenka in the deciding doubles rubber, leaving Barty unbeaten in the competition this year.
Barty extended her winning sequence to double figures with ease, dominating all facets against Gavrilova, who claimed a third-set tiebreaker in their lone match-up on clay two years ago in Strasbourg.
However, Barty is a vastly improved player now, boasting seven top-10 scalps already in 2019, as well as a run to the Australian Open quarterfinals in January.
A top-eight seeding at Roland Garros in three weeks would ensure Barty wouldn’t run into a higher-ranked rival until at least the quarterfinals.
Any rankings rise between now and Wimbledon starting on 1 July would also be hugely beneficial to the former All England Club junior champion.
Barty will now meet surprise Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins or a qualifier in the second round in Madrid.
Fellow Australian Ajla Tomljanovic will open against Mihaela Buzarnescu, but 2010 French Open runner-up Stosur lost to Laura Siegemund in the first round of qualifying for the $11.2 million tournament.