Ash Barty overcomes scare against Vera Zvonareva to move into US Open second round

Ash Barty is breathing easier after overcoming a second-set scare against former finalist Vera Zvonareva to safely progress to US Open second round. Barty had to save a set point in the tiebreaker before seeing off the veteran Russian 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) in a challenging opener at Flushing Meadows.

The world No 1 blasted 11 aces, including her tour-topping 300th of the year, and clubbed 31 clean winners to send an ominous warning to her rivals.

But, contesting her first match in New York in two years after sitting out the 2020 Open during the height of the global pandemic, Barty expressed relief at surviving a stern test against a wily opponent who reached the final at Flushing Meadows and Wimbledon 11 years ago before taking time out and having a baby.

“Vera, without a doubt, she’s an experienced campaigner and she understood what she was doing in the first set wasn’t working for her and she was able to adapt and to change that,” Barty said.

“It obviously got really tense in that second set – tight – and in the bigger moments I was able to be aggressive and trust myself and that was a massive thing today.

“There were a couple of games where I had lapses in concentration but I was able to come through in straight sets and now we go back to the drawing board, work on a few things and we’ll be as happy as Larry. I’m certainly happy to be through and playing again here in New York.

“All in all, being able to work my way around that and get through that in straight sets was really pleasing. When my back was against the wall late in that buster, I came up with some really good stuff. That’s all we can ask.”

After a blazing start, it took a malfunction of the electronic line-calling system at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which caused a short stoppage early in the second set, to slow Barty down.

Leading by a set and a break, the Wimbledon champion dropped serve with a double-fault while trying to close out the match at 5-4. She then had to stave off a set point with a booming off-forehand winner in the breaker before holding her nerve to seal victory after one hour and 28 minutes.

Chasing her sixth title of the season, after landing her fifth in the Open lead-up event in Cincinnati, Barty next plays exciting Danish teenage prospect Clara Tauson on Friday for a place in the last 32.

Ajla Tomljanovic and Jordan Thompson joined Ash Barty in the second round after Tomljanovic needed barely an hour to take down American teenage wildcard Katie Volynets 6-1, 6-3 and Thompson ground out a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (7-3) victory over Italian Gianluca Mager.

Tomljanovic, her confidence sky high after reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals herself, broke Volynets three times and was completely untroubled on her own serve, striking four aces and winning 89% of points after landing her own delivery. The victory set up a meeting with Czech Petra Martić.

Returning to the scene of his best grand slam result yet, Thompson toiled for three and a half hours before finally clinching victory in a fifth-set tiebreaker. The Sydneysider made the last 16 at Flushing Meadows last year and will likely need to reprise that form next up when he faces 2021 Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev, the 21st seed.

Davis Cup teammate Alex de Minaur will bid to follow Thompson and Alexei Popyrin, a day-one winner over Radu Albot, in the second round later when the 14th seed takes on American Taylor Fritz.

In-form wildcard Max Purcell, who beat Thompson last week en route to the last 16 at Winstom-Salem, took the fight to Jannik Sinner before succumbing 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 to Italy’s 13th seed.