Ash Barty has survived a scare on her return to Roland Garros before she prevailed in a three-set first round victory over America’s Bernarda Pera.
Barty eventually won 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in her first match on the red clay of Paris since she hoisted the trophy in 2019 — having decided not to play in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic — but Pera made it far from easy for her.
After Barty took the opening set, the second belonged to the world number 70, who broke in the second game to take a 2-0 lead from which she did not look back.
The left-handed Pera dominated Barty with her forehand, frequently pushing the Australian world number 1 wide to her backhand, stretching her out.
Barty tried in vain to break back late in the set and had a break point when Pera was serving for the set at 5-3 but could not convert.
It was then that the physical toll the match was taking on the Australian became obvious, and she called for the trainer at the end of the set.
Barty, sporting heavy strapping on her upper left leg, required treatment and a medical timeout for what appeared to be a hamstring issue.
The treatment seemed to do the job for Barty and allowed her to reset going into a final set where she managed to force errors from Pera’s racket by keeping the ball low with her backhand slice.
Pera was under pressure from early in the set but fended off early break points before she finally cracked when serving at 2-3 as Barty won four games straight to take the match and advance to the second round.
A relieved Barty paid credit to Pera for her performance.
“I just tried to stay in the match as long as possible and I was able to build a little bit more pressure in the final set,” Barty said.
“Bernarda played a great match.”
Barty’s victory was not the sole one for Australian women on day three of the tournament with 25-year-old wildcard Astra Sharma continuing her good run of form.
Sharma, who won her maiden WTA Tour title in Charleston in April, defeated Romanian qualifier Irina Bara 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 to book a second round match with 25th seed Ons Jabeur, who Sharma beat in three sets in the Charleston final.