Tennis

World No. 1 Barty not bothered despite early exit at Brisbane Int'l

World No. 1 beaten in her season-opener by qualifier Brady before home fans

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty remains upbeat about her Australian Open preparations, despite losing her opening match of the season at the Brisbane International yesterday.

American qualifier Jennifer Brady notched up her first win over a top-10 player when she beat Barty 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) at the Pat Rafter Arena.

It was Barty's first match on home soil since topping the world rankings, and came at the venue where she trains and in front of thousands of her adoring local fans.

Barty conceded afterwards she had simply been outplayed by the 53rd- ranked Brady, who also beat former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova in the first round.

"Jen was in control of the match - she was in the centre of the court being the aggressor and you have to give credit where credit's due," said Barty, who practised with Brady earlier this week.

"She came through qualifying, but she's got a ranking that's kind of well below what a lot of people give her credit for.

"She's playing some exceptional tennis, so I certainly can't take that away from her. She played a great match today and deserved to win."

Barty grew up in Ipswich, on Brisbane's western outskirts, and has had hundreds of fans packing the outside courts to watch her practise this week.

But, when asked if she felt any pressure because of the attention, she insisted she didn't feel any different.

"That's (the pressure) all coming from you guys, if I'm being completely honest," the top seed said.

"It doesn't change the way that I practise. It doesn't change the way that my team and I prepare. It doesn't change me as a person. You guys enjoy the fact that you get something to write about and you have something to talk about.

"So hopefully I make it interesting for you, but I don't look at it beyond that."

Barty, who exited the tournament in the first round in 2018, struck more winners than Brady. But the 16 unforced errors opened the door for the American, who wrapped up the match in 91 minutes.

Barty, who had never dropped a set to Brady in two encounters last year, was unable to muster a single break-point, while the American needed only one break of serve in the opening set before sealing the result in the second-set tie-break.

SURREAL

"I'm very happy to get the win, Ash is a great player and a great person," Brady said.

"It's a little bit surreal. I'm super stoked and I'm shaking a little bit, but I really played well today."

Brady, who had come through three qualifiers, will play two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova today.

Kvitova defeated Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova 6-3, 6-2.

Second seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova had to work hard to avoid the same fate as Barty, overcoming a mid-match blip to secure a 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1 win over Ajla Tomljanovic.

Third seed Naomi Osaka also had a difficult outing, as she came back from a set down to beat American Sofia Kenin 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-1. - AFP, REUTERS

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