World No 1 Ash Barty made the quick transition from hard to clay courts with little difficulty on Wednesday when she dispatched Japan’s Misaki Doi, 6-2 6-1, in the Volvo Car Open at Charleston, SC.
I had to use it as an opportunity to try and build some comfort. I think having a couple days between Miami and playing this first match was important, to have my body rest, but to also try and prepare to change surfaces. It was a very quick turnaround, but I felt great out there tonight. Ash Barty
The Australian won the Miami Open on Saturday and has had to get used to the different green clay surface on LPT Daniel Island as the spring clay court swing gets under way.
“There was an adjustment period, without a doubt,” Barty said. “It was a very quick turnaround from Miami, just had a couple of hours of practice.
“I was, honestly, just hoping I didn’t trip and fall over trying to slide. But it came back quite naturally. So really happy to be back here, particularly in Charleston, but back on clay.”
Barty, of course, is no stranger to clay, having won Roland Garros in 2019, which was, in fact, her last match on the stuff when she defeated Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets to earn the first Grand Slam title of her career.
The Aussie simply picked up where she had left off, dismissing World No 77 Doi with relatively little trouble after just over an hour of play.
“I had to use it as an opportunity to try and build some comfort,” Barty said, after the win. “I think having a couple days between Miami and playing this first match was important, to have my body rest, but to also try and prepare to change surfaces.
“It was a very quick turnaround, but I felt great out there tonight.
“I still did hit on clay in the middle of [last] year, to try to keep some consistency in the way the schedule usually would flow,” Barty added.
The top seed took the early lead, using her fierce forehand to earn a break at 4-2 and storming through the opening set by reeling in the set.
Although Doi broke Barty in the first game of the second set, that was the Aussie’s only misstep as she once again went on a game-winning run.
A series of hot shots, culminating with a stunning forehand crosscourt winner, helped Barty to break back right away, and she went on to pick off 6 games in a row to romp to victory.
All told, Barty finished the encounter with 23 winners, to Doi’s 6 and, with her win-loss record for the season now up to 15-2, the Aussie will next face home favourite Shelby Rogers, after the Charleston resident upset No 13 seed Amanda Anisimova, 1-6 7-5 6-4, in a late-night all-American clash.
Anisimova held a 6-1, 4-1 lead before being affected by a lower-body injury prompting her to take a medical time-out.
She returned to fight through the rest of the encounter, but it was Rogers who used her powerful play to turn the match around.
Both Rogers and Anisimova were 2 points from victory at different stages of the match, which lasted 2 hours 9 minutes and featured the 19-year-old Anisimova receiving a point penalty for ‘unauthorised leaving of the court’.
Rogers rallied to take the second set by 7-5, after which Anisimova slammed down her racket earning the 19-year-old a warning for racket abuse.
She then apparently said something to Rogers, asked for a toilet break and left the court, but she did not go to the bathroom, drawing a point penalty.
In the third set, the players traded 6 straight service breaks for 3-3 before Rogers held to love for 4-3.
In the 10th game, Rogers got to deuce on a net-cord, then won the match on a Anisimova error, screaming out ‘Come on!’.
“Chaos is a good word for it,” Rogers said afterward. “I haven’t been that overwhelmed at the start of a match in a long time.
“I’m really proud of myself for turning it around, because that could have been a brutal walk back to the clubhouse at 6-1, 4-1.”
Her prize is a third chance to beat Barty this year, but so far, Rogers is 0-2 against the World No 1.
“She’s pretty darned good, that’s what I’ve learned,” Rogers said. “She’s serving great, like we saw in Miami, and she’s got a lot of confidence on her serve.
“That will be a huge factor, whether I can get in some of those games. But you are doing something right if you get to play the No 1 player in the world three times already.”
Not all the high seeds made the transition as smoothly Barty, with American Sofia Kenin, the No 2 seed, falling to compatriot Lauren Davis, 4-6 6-3 6-4, while 5th-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland lost to Spain’s Paula Badosa, 6-2 6-7(2) 6-1, and No 7 Elise Mertens from Belgium was upset by Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, 7-5 6-3.
Kenin, ranked 4th in the world and a former Australian Open champion, was tied in the final set before several errors cost her the match, pushing 2 shots long in the final game to send Davis into the next round.
“She spreads the ball like no one I’ve ever played before,” Davis said after the match. “She moves it very well. Makes a ton of balls but is also very aggressive.
“I was struggling in the first set and a half with my serve. I was kind of hitting the ball too flat.
“I started thinking a bit, and I found she wasn’t too much a fan of high balls. So I really took advantage of that.
“Really happy with how I composed myself and handled the situation.”
Kenin, the highest ranked American in the field, took a medical timeout when she was down 3-0 in the third set.
With her left thigh heavily wrapped, she won the next 3 games before Davis recovered to close out the match, her first win over a top 20 player this year.
Bencic, ranked No12 in the world, lost to the No 71-ranked Badosa, after 2 hours19 minutes, with the Spaniard serving up 10 aces to counter her 11 double-faults as she scored her first career win over a top 20 player.
Mertens, ranked No 17, went down in straight sets to the tricky Cornet, ranked No 79, in just over 2 hours, and the Frenchwoman next meet Ons Jabeur, the 12th seed from Tunisia, who beat American wild card Hailey Baptiste, 6-3 6-3.
Among the seeded players to move on into the round of 16 was 17-year-old American Coco Gauff, who got past Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova, 4-6 6-1 6-4.
Gauff found herself down a set but the No 14 seed mounted a composed comeback, hitting 89 percent of her first serves in and racking up 8 aces to zero double-faults to advance, 4-6 6-1 6-4.
“It definitely means a lot,” said Gauff, 17, and ranked No 36. “I played pretty well.
“When it got close in the first set, I was able to control the points and find my calmness and pull through.
“Pretty much all of my double-faults were pretty good misses long. Those are the misses that I want. My serve is constantly evolving.”
Gauff’s doubles partner, Caty McNally, also moved through, battling past Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova, 7-6 2-6 6-4, and will meet Badosa for a place in the quarter-finals.
Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens beat defending champion Madison Keys, seeded 8th, 6-4 6-4, in an all-American night match.
Stephens, ranked 57th, has won two matches here, and it is the first time in her past 9 tournaments she has managed to accomplish that.
“I think things can’t be bad forever. I think once you get that good swing going in tennis, matches come quickly and you get a little bit of confidence,” Stephens said. “Pleased with the win today, obviously, and hopefully on the upswing.”
Ranked 24th and seeded 8th in Charleston, Keys missed the Australian Open due to testing positive for COVID-19 and although Stephens had won 3 of their previous 4 matches, Keys’ win came here during her 2019 title run.
Little in the first 6 games revealed any particular edge and the 3 games at the end of the first set proved pivotal, when with Stephens serving at 3-4, Keys went ahead love-30, eventually holding a break point at 30-40, but she hit a backhand return long and soon it was 4-all.
Stephens was making slight inroads on the Keys serve throughout the set, but had been unable to convert until the 7th break point of the set when Keys hit another backhand long.
Serving for the set at 5-4, Keys held break point, but struck a forehand long, over-hit a swing volley at deuce and on set point was beaten by a Stephens drop shot-lob sequence.