Ashleigh Barty will have another chance to establish her championship credentials on Thursday, taking on Alison Van Uytvanck for a spot in the third round. The draw was not kind to the World No.1 who is sitting in the same quarter as both of last year’s finalists – Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber.
That’s not to say the French Open should be afraid of either opponent, especially in the form she is in right now. She followed up her Paris title by winning in Birmingham, not dropping a set in the process. She continued that streak in round one, easing past Saisai Zheng in her opener. “I think [Zheng is] a very tricky opponent to start off with, very happy with the way we were able to work our way into the match. Took some time to adjust to conditions and a different court. It’s a beautiful court to play on.” she said afterwards. During Barty’s brief period as a promising junior star, she was a Wimbledon girls champion and has been a strong performer on grass throughout her career.
Van Uytvanck’s best performances have come on fast indoor courts but she has struggled to convert that form to similarly fast grass surfaces for the most part. She does however have a fourth round to her name at Wimbledon, getting that far last year thanks to wins over Garbine Muguruza and Anett Kontaveit. Barty is familiar with the threat the Belgian, who beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in round one, poses. “She has the ability to take the game away from you pretty early in rallies. A big serve, a big first shot after her serve. It will be important for me to neutralize the best that I can and bring variety into the match, as well.” she said.
It would be a surprise if Barty exits this early with her obvious credentials on the grass. She will need to be careful against a capable opponent but isn’t feeling the pressure too much right now. “The only pressure I have is what I put on myself, making sure I’m doing all the right things, preparing in the right way,” said Barty. “Ultimately when we play our matches, we go out there and enjoy it. That’s why we do all the work, all the practices, to go out there and enjoy competing.”
Prediction – Ashleigh Barty in straight sets