Australian tennis comeback star Ashleigh Barty has stretched her winning streak to eight matches by beating former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard at the Miami Open.
The Australian wildcard prevailed 6-4 5-7 6-3 on centre court, continuing the rich form that earned her a first WTA Tour title at the Malaysian Open and setting up a first-ever clash with countrywoman Sam Stosur in the second round.
“I love Miami,” said Barty. “It’s the first time I’ve played singles here, so it’s really exciting for me. It’s certainly nice to play on a beautiful centre court like this.”
Barty, 20, was off the tour for about 18 months, including a stint playing cricket but has come back better than ever and is ranked a career-high 91st after triumph in Kuala Lumpur.
Her match up against 23-year-old Canadian Bouchard, ranked 56, was a battle of past junior Wimbledon champions.
Bouchard reached No. 5 in 2014, the year she was the runner-up at Wimbledon and reached the semi-finals at two other grand slam tournaments.
But her recent form has gone in the opposite direction to Barty’s and she exited in the first round for a fourth straight tournament.
“I think I was able to be very aggressive on returns and use my forehand,” said Barty.
“It came with a few errors as well but I knew I needed to be aggressive to give myself a chance and I think I did that today.
She was looking forward to a clash with former US Open champion Stosur, who has slipped to No.91 in the world following patchy poor form this year.
“It’ll be nice to play Sam. We’ve practiced a lot together in the past but never played against each other.
“It’s very similar – I’m going to have to be very aggressive off returns and try and take her serve away from her, then I think it might be a little bit of a battle of the forehands from us.”