Paris, France, 1 June 2021 | Leigh Rogers

The last time Ash Barty competed at Court Philippe-Chatrier she held aloft her first major singles title.

After opting not to defend her Roland Garros 2019 title, the 25-year-old Australian made a triumphant return today to a court that will forever hold a special place in her heart.

The world No.1 had to fight hard though in a first-round showdown against American Bernarda Pera, eventually prevailing 6-4 3-6 6-2 in a two-hour battle.

Barty withstood some big hitting from the left-handed world No.70 in their first career meeting.

Pera fired 12 winners to Barty’s five in the opening set, but the top-seeded Australian proved more consistent and clinched it in 42 minutes.

There was no stopping Pera in the second set though, with the American hitting 15 winners to level the match at one-set apiece.

Barty, who began the match with her left thigh taped, called the trainer on court after the second set. She later admitted to be struggling with a hip injury.

“Every match that I play in, every different experience, whether it’s I guess an opponent or a physical challenge, I feel like you learn to overcome it and you learn to accept it,” Barty said.

“That was a massive part of today, accepting the fact that, yes, I may not be absolutely 100 per cent, but I’m certainly good enough to go out there and fight and do the best I can and give myself a chance to win matches.”

With the momentum firmly in Pera’s favour, Barty dug deep. She saved break points on serve in the third game of the deciding set, refusing to let her 26-year-old opponent edge ahead.

Barty then clinched a crucial break in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. Back in control, the Australian’s big-match experience showed as she calmly closed out a hard-fought victory.

The world No.1, who is now on an eight-match winning streak at Roland Garros, will play Poland’s Magda Linette in the second round.

“I’m excited to be here, excited to play and have another opportunity to be playing in a Grand Slam,” Barty said.

Earlier in the day, Australia’s Astra Sharma matched her career-best Grand Slam result by advancing to the second round.

The 25-year-old from Perth, a wildcard ranked No.124, scored a 7-6(5) 6-2 victory against Romanian qualifer Irina Bara. Sharma hit 36 winners in the impressive victory.

> READ: Sharma powers into Roland Garros second round

Alex de Minaur is also through to the second round, overcoming Italian Stefano Travaglia 6-2 6-4 7-6(4) in men’s singles action. While James Duckworth scored his first Roland Garros main draw victory, winning a three-hour 6-4 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2 battle against Italy’s Salvatore Caruso.

Third seed and 13-time champion Rafael Nadal proved too strong for 21-year-old Alexei Popyrin, winning their first-round clash in straight sets.

Aussies in action – Roland Garros

TODAY’S RESULTS
Women’s singles, first round
[1] Ash Barty (AUS) d Bernarda Pera (USA) 6-4 3-6 6-2
[WC] Astra Sharma (AUS) d [Q] Irina Bara (ROU) 7-6(5) 6-2

Men’s singles, first round
[21] Alex de Minaur (AUS) d Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 6-2 6-4 7-6(4)
James Duckworth (AUS) d Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-4 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) d Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-3 6-2 7-6(3)

COMING UP
Women’s singles, second round
[1] Ash Barty (AUS) v Magda Linette (POL)
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) v [31] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
[WC] Astra Sharma (AUS) v [25] Ons Jabeur (TUN)

> VIEW: Full Roland Garros women’s singles draw

Men’s singles, second round
[21] Alex de Minaur (AUS) v Marco Cecchinato (ITA)
James Duckworth (AUS) v Ricardas Berankis (LTU)

> VIEW: Full Roland Garros men’s singles draw

Women’s doubles, first round
[13] Ellen Perez (AUS)/Zheng Saisai (CHN) v Cori Gauff (USA)/Venus Williams (USA)
[15] Ash Barty (AUS)/Jennifer Brady (USA) v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)/Elena Rybakina (KAZ)
Arina Rodionova (AUS)/Lyudmyla Kichenok (UKR) v [16] Nadiia Kichenok (UKR)/Raluca Olaru (ROU)
Storm Sanders (AUS)/Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) v Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS)/Yana Sizikova (RUS)
Astra Sharma (AUS)/Hayley Carter (USA) v Vivian Heisen (GER)/Kveta Peschke (CZE)

Men’s doubles, first round
[10] John Peers (AUS)/Michael Venus (NZL) v [WC] Benjamin Bonzi (FRA)/Antoine Hoang (FRA)
Max Purcell (AUS)/Luke Saville (AUS) v [WC] Gregoire Barrere (FRA)/Albano Olivetti (FRA)
Matt Ebden (AUS)/John-Patrick Smith (AUS) v Robin Haase (NED)/Jan-Lennard Struff (GER)
Alex de Minaur (AUS)/Matt Reid (AUS) v Federico Delbonis (ARG)/Divij Sharan (IND)
Alexei Popyrin (AUS)/Jordan Thompson (AUS) v Tomislav Brkic (BIH)/Nikola Cacic (SRB)

> TV GUIDE: How to watch Roland Garros