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Barty and Muguruza cruise as Azarenka falters

Ash Barty flashed past Danka Kvinic, delivering a masterclass and a double bagel in the process, while Garbiñe Muguruza got herself back to her winning ways by dispatching Margarita Gasparyan, but former 2-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka fell to American Jessica Pegula.

I'm not thinking about the double bagel at all until the end of the match and we have shaken hands,” Barty observed to the media later. It's more about continuing to do the things that have worked throughout the whole matches. Really trying to press the momentum. Get those first couple of points in every game, get the first point in each game, and really try and keep that roll going. Ash Barty

Kicking off the Day 2 night session, Barty delivered a flawless 6-0 6-0 whitewash of the World No 82 from Montenegro in just 44 minutes, the shortest match of the first round.

Fresh off winning her 9th career title, and her second on home soil, last week at the Yarra Valley Classic, Barty’s masterclass of precision and focus offered little opportunity for Kovinic as she raced through the first 16 points, raising anticipation for the first Tour-level ‘golden set’ since Yaroslava Shvedova’s whitewash of Sara Errani at Wimbledon 2012.

Although a rare backhand error, however, ended those hopes, Barty’s iron grip of the contest never faltered.

In total, the 24-year-old conceded only 10 points, 4 in an 18-minute first set and 6 in a 26-minute second, while striking 10 winners maintaining a 100% record at net.

Kovinic, by contrast, leaked 28 unforced errors and found only 3 winners as she reached game point just once.

“I’m not thinking about the double bagel at all until the end of the match and we have shaken hands,” Barty observed to the media later.

“It’s more about continuing to do the things that have worked throughout the whole matches.

“Really trying to press the momentum. Get those first couple of points in every game, get the first point in each game, and really try and keep that roll going.”

“I wanted to go out there and almost take the sting, take the pepper out of the match a little bit and get it on my terms as much as possible right from the get-go, and make it feel like she had a real mountain to climb,” she added. “I think that was probably the most pleasing [thing] overall… right from the start I set the tone and was able to run away with it.”

Barty, hoping to break her country’s 43-year singles title AO drought, hitting the lines and overwhelming the errant Montenegrin, who had 28 unforced errors and won just 10 points in total.

Expectations are high for Barty after falling short in the semi-finals to eventual champion Sofia Kenin at lAO20, her best performance at Melbourne Park.

She plays compatriot Daria Gavrilova in the second round, who beat Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo in the last match of the day on Margaret Court Arena, 6-1 7-5,

Garbine Muguruza is back to her winning ways, taking her run Down Under to 5 of 6 matches played, after beating Margarita Gasparyan on Day 2 of the Australian Open

© Paul Crock/AFP via Getty Images

Muguruza, last year’s AO finalist and runner-up on Sunday at the Yarra Valley Classic to Barty, got her campaign off to a flying 6-4 6-0 start over Russia’s Gasparyan in the opening match of the day on the MCA, needing just 73 minutes to seal her spot in the second round.

“I was excited to start the Grand Slam, already, after few weeks here on-site, and in Melbourne,” Muguruza told reporters in her post-match press conference.  “I think [it was] a very positive week.

“After having the quarantine and training, having an extra tournament to play on the same court, I feel like it was great no matter if I ended up losing the final or not.

“I feel like I did well. I also had many chances on the final. I mean, I think the hard work, it’s there, it’s showing on the court.

“I was excited to have this feeling towards a Grand Slam. I felt like I finished the final, and I had a day to train, then I was back on Margaret Court [Arena].”

From 3-3 in the opening set, the No 14 seed motored through 9 of the next 10 games against the Russian lucky loser ranked World No 127, never again facing break point after losing an early 3-1 lead.

The Spaniard’s stats sparkled in the second set, where she lost just 3 points on serve and made just two unforced errors.

“I didn’t feel like I had to do something different. I’m just wearing different clothes… It helped me to have many matches, just to keep the rhythm, just one more day on court.”

Up next, Muguruza could have a meeting with another Russian qualifier Ludmilla Samsonova, who edged out compatriot Paula Badosa, 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 7-5.

Badosa, who attracted criticism after she complained about her mandatory quarantine and then became the only player to test positive, said the past month had been ‘very, very tough’, adding she wouldn’t want to repeat her AO experience.

“I’m sad for the match, but I’m even more sad because I lost the level that I’ve been working so hard these two months in pre-season,” she said, insisting her complaints about quarantine had been misunderstood.

“Of course I understand the rules. I think you’re doing it very, very well in this country. That’s why you don’t have cases, but my complaint was never that.

“It was a little bit the conditions because if you’re going to play a Grand Slam, today you have the example. I played, I don’t know, maybe three hours… and I needed fresh air or maybe a bigger room or better conditions to play against the best players.

“That was my complaint.”

The World No 67 had complained that her room was too small and she did not have access to exercise equipment, although this was later remedied.

Badosa added that she had no idea how she contracted COVID-19, having been in a WTA bubble in Abu Dhabi before heading to Australia on the charter flights arranged by Tennis Australia.

Jessica Pegula (R) stopped any hopes of Victoria Azarenka adding a 3rd AO title to her resume on Tuesday

© Paul Crock /AFP via Getty Images

Joining Muguruza in extending their pre-tournament momentum with first-round victories on Tuesday were Gippsland Trophy champion Elise Mertens and Grampians Trophy finalist Ann Li.

The No 18 seed from Belgium eased past Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez, 6-3 6-1, while the 20-year-old American made a statement in a 6-2 6-0 upset of No 31 seed Zhang Shuai of China in just 47 minutes.

“She’s still young. She’s a good player. If you let her play, she can play aggressive… I’m very happy that I pulled through, that I kept on fighting,” said Mertens after extending her winning streak to 5 matches.

In addition, 2020 WTA Newcomer of the Year Nadia Podoroska of Argentina beat American Christina McHale, 6-4 6-4, and Ekaterina Alexandrova from Russia, seeded No 29, eased past Italy’s Martina Trevisan, 6-3 6-4.

While Muguruza added a 24th career victory to a solid resume Down Under, American Jessica Pegula secured her first, upsetting former 2-time AO champion Victoria Azarenka, 7-5 6-4 .

The 26-year-old American, who won the 2019 Citi Open, came from 5-2 down in the opening set and saved a set point to secure her 4th career Top 20 victory.

“I just kept fighting to kind of just hold serve,” Pegula said later. “I knew she was serving really well.

“I knew I would get chances at the end of the first set, like I did. Maybe a little lucky here and there.

“I think I just tried to weather the storm. I ended up settling in and ended up playing pretty well to close the first set out. I’m really proud that I stayed in there.”

Behind 6 aces and 24 winners, Pegula held the edge against the former World No 1 Belarusianwho was undone by 25 unforced errors and 7 double faults.

“I am disappointed that I wasn’t able to perform that I knew I could,” a disappointed Azarenka said. “That’s a bit hard to accept today because I knew I can play better, a lot better.

“At the same time, I feel that I’ve tried everything I can to be able to be prepared, but unfortunately that hasn’t worked out for me.

“Going into a Grand Slam, or a tournament, it’s like, ‘Okay, I’ll have to do the best I can with what I have’.

That was my mentality. Today I felt that I’ve done that to the best of my ability, also mentally, but it didn’t work out. I felt like things were just not connecting.”



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