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Fans at Rod Laver Arena endured a brief wait for Ashleigh Barty ahead of her opener at Australian Open 2022 as the world No.1 enjoyed a chat with tournament referee Wayne McKewen before arriving on court.

But there was hardly a delay in the huge home favourite reaching the second round.

Barty made it look ever so simple against a former top 30 regular, Lesia Tsurenko, prevailing 6-0 6-1 in just 54 minutes.

Barty raised hopes of becoming the first Australian to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy since 1978 by storming to the title in Adelaide earlier in January, and her display on Monday evening must have her supporters — and there are many, given her game and personality — even more optimistic.

Her official tally of 14 winners and 17 unforced errors didn’t seem representative of the night’s play.

Tsurenko’s ranking of 119 is far from an accurate indicator of her ability. The Ukrainian only slid in the standings due to an elbow injury, and stretched Barty to three sets when they squared off at the same stage of Australian Open 2020.

Tsurenko downed hard court queen Naomi Osaka in reaching the final in Brisbane — roughly 60 kilometres from Barty’s birthplace of Ipswich in Queensland — in 2019, too.

Yet Barty’s variety — that mixture of power and guile — gave Tsurenko and her rugged baseline game no time to breathe or settle. Precisely what Barty can do and has done, helping her land two Grand Slam titles, including Wimbledon last year.

Only a few moments in, chants of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi,” began, and more are sure to follow.

Barty thumped a serve to start the affair and weaved her magic in the second game en route to a break, sending a wicked backhand slice down the line to open up the court.

The lone real blemish came in the third game at deuce when, on top of the net, she flubbed a forehand.

That was about it.

As Tsurenko readied to serve at 0-5 in the second, she glanced into the crowd with a shake of the head. It was hardly how she hoped the night would go, and one couldn’t help but have sympathy.

Tsurenko did avoid the dreaded double bagel — there was no smile or raised arms — but Barty officially progressed on a fifth match point.

Tsurenko did smile at the net for the handshake, but Barty and her adoring public at Rod Laver Arena had greater reason to be in good spirits.

“This is beautiful,” Barty told former Australian Open quarterfinalist Jelena Dokic in her on-court interview.

“I’ve said it a few times, it’s felt like an eternity since I’ve been back on this beautiful court.

“Last year was just incredible, obviously highlighted by Wimbledon. It was a dream of mine and I was extremely fortunate it came true. I had so much fun in that week and I’m just glad I was able to enjoy it with my team, everyone back here in Australia. It’s certainly nice to be back on home soil now and playing as well as I did. It was a lot of fun out here.”

Barty was understandably pleased with her opening hit-out.

“I felt like it was nice and clean. End to end I did a good job in adjusting,” she said.

“There is quite a little wind at court level here. I thought I did a good job … overall I felt I was able to find the forehand and control the court with my forehand.

“It was just nice and solid to get out here and play a decent match and just feel like I enjoyed it. I think that’s the most important thing.”

Source: Ravi Ubha

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