Wimbledon | Barty and Stephens cruise into third round
Ashleigh Barty and Sloane Stephens were among the early winners on Day 3 of the Wimbledon Championships, losing a combined 6 games between them.
There isn't a bad court at Wimbledon so wherever I'm scheduled to play on, we'll go out there and do our best, The size of the court, they're all the same. The lines are the same Ashleigh Barty
While many felt Barty had been dealt a Wimbledon snub when the World No 1’s second-round match on Thursday was shunted to No 2 Court, the French champion said she wasn’t bothered where she played.
“There isn’t a bad court at Wimbledon so wherever I’m scheduled to play on, we’ll go out there and do our best,” she said. “The size of the court, they’re all the same. The lines are the same.”
That’s the way she is – unflustered and a class act, who earlier had also shrugged off the unpopular move of Australia’s Channel Seven taking her first match as top seed off their screens, which many felt was an affront to the country’s best female player since Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
“If people can watch my matches, great,” Barty said after her first-round win. “If they can’t, they can’t. That’s up to the broadcasters, not me.”
On this day, it was another impressive performance from Barty as she cruised past Alison Van Uytvanck, 6-1 6-3 in just 55 minutes.
Five breaks of serve were enough for the Roland Garros champion, and she now faces Harriet Dart, a three sets winner over Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia.
“There’s an element of danger against everyone you play,” observes Barty. “You have to make sure you know exactly how you want to play the match. I haven’t played with her [Dart] before, haven’t hit with her. Obviously a little bit new for both of us.
“Whoever I do play in a couple days’ time, I’ll make sure that we’re prepared as best we can, we have a game plan, try to go out there and execute.”
Barty faced a different kind of test on No 2 Court, facing a player with a similar game to her as there were a lot of slices in the early stages.
The Belgian, however, had no riposte to the top seed’s big hitting and immaculate point construction.
Whether it was at the net or at the back of the court, Barty just held all the answers as she raced to an early 5-0 lead and looked in total control.
Despite the poor start, Van Uytvanck was hoping the memories of beating Garbiñe Muguruza 12 months ago on this court would inspire her.
The French Open and Birmingham champion, however, was on a 13-match win streak and although she did drop the next game, the Australian held to seal the opening set.
Van Uytvanck made the round of 16 here a year ago, with upsets over defending champion Muguruza and Anett Kontaveit, and on Tuesday she took out 2-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The 25-year-old from Belgium has flat groundstrokes well-suited to the grass, although no woman’s game is better suited for grass than that of the current World No 1.
In their only previous meeting, Barty prevailed last summer at the Rogers Cup in straight sets.
It was more of the same from the 22 year-old in the second set, as she continued to adapt and cause the Belgian all sorts of problems.
The extraordinary thing about the match was Barty had the weaker first serve percentage, and she was still able to do more with her serve than Van Uytvanck.
There was a moment of hope for the Belgian after recovering one of the breaks back to reduce the gap from 5-1 to 5-3, but it turned into nothing more than hope as then Barty sealed the deal with a sliced backhand and volley combination.
“I think, overall today, I was just really clear,” summarised Barty later. “I think I did a really good job with my execution of how we wanted to play.
“Pretty sharp right from the start. I was able to implement what I wanted to right away and put the pressure straight back on her.”
Showing off her skills to perfection, Barty had taken the first set with a backhand that wrong-footed her opponent, and then wrapped up the match, played in warm sunshine, with a high backhand volley winner.
“I had to have my running shoes on,” Barty said as she came off court. “I had to make sure I made a lot of returns.”
The win seals Barty’s 18th consecutive set and her 14th consecutive win as she cements herself as a front-runner for the Wimbledon title.
As for playing on Centre Court, Barty said: “If I got to play on the court, it would be incredible. One of the most beautiful courts in the world.
“I’ll play whenever I’m scheduled. There’s not a bad court here at Wimbledon, all special in their own right.
“They’re all very beautiful. I certainly enjoyed playing on Court 2 today. It was nice to hear some Aussies out there, get some support. It was incredible.”
On playing Britain’s Harriet Dart, Barty remains unconcerned: “If it is her, there’s still a long way to go. I wouldn’t be playing a British crowd; I’m playing against Harriet. Yes, she’ll get more support being in Britain, as I would if we were in Australia. It’s no different.
“I mean, I don’t need to worry about that for at least another couple of games if she closes it out. We’ll worry about it then.
“We do the same regardless of the opponent. If I played them two weeks ago, if I’ve never played them before, we’re very diligent with what we do tactically. Tyz is one of the best [coaches].
“I’m always very clear when I go out on the court knowing what I want to do. Whoever the opponent is on that day, I try and execute as best I can.”
It’s the Barty way and, by the way, her grandparents are both English.
Meanwhile 9th seed Sloane Stephens only lost only 2 games breezing past Yafan Wang and could face a 3rd round match with Johanna Konta next.
“I thought I played a good, solid match obviously from the beginning,” said the American 9th seed after concluding her match on No 3 Court. “So I was happy with that.
“I felt like I executed my game plan well, and that’s all you can really do. I was just happy to get a good win today.”
After winning 81% of her points on first serve, Stephens set a real statement ahead of her last 32 match on Saturday.
“Obviously grass hasn’t been my best surface, so just come and try to give myself the best opportunity to win some matches, and get going, and get some confidence on it is pretty good. I’m happy with that,” she added.
“Like I said, it hasn’t been my best surface, so trying to get out in Eastbourne, and get a match in, and then come here a little bit more prepared than I was last year, is steps in the right direction.”
Elsewhere, China’s Qiang Wang was also a winner early on Day 3 after beating Tamara Zidansek from Slovenia, 6-1 6-2.