Sport Ash Barty opens season in style with come-from-behind win against Coco Gauff
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Ash Barty opens season in style with come-from-behind win against Coco Gauff

Ash Barty has scored a comeback win over American Coco Gauff at the Adelaide International on Wednesday. Photo: AAP
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Ash Barty has opened her 2022 season in style with a steely comeback win over teenage talent Coco Gauff at the Adelaide International.

Australia’s world No.1 showcased every bit of her unflinching fighting spirit in battling back from a set and a service break down to pull off a 4-6 7-5 6-1 victory on Wednesday night.

Without a match since the US Open in September, Barty took a while to shake off the rust as 17-year-old Gauff played very much like the young woman in a hurry that the American prodigy is.

After nabbing the opening set with two breaks of Barty’s serve, Gauff forged to a 4-2 lead in the second and appeared set to add another big scalp to her growing list as the top seed’s alarming unforced error rate mounted.

But, in the blink of an eye, Barty burst to life.

Opening her shoulders, the Wimbledon champion and Australian Open title favourite reeled off a stunning run of clean winners to force a deciding set.

With Barty officially boasting the best three-set record in women’s tennis last year, the writing was on the wall for Gauff.

Looking resigned to have missed her moment, the world No.22 dropped serve meekly again – then again – as Barty won 11 of the last 13 games to clinch the match.

Barty’s impressive win came after world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka made a shock early exit from the tournament earlier in the day with a straight-sets loss to Kaja Juvan in her own season opener.

A semi-finalist at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, Sabalenka entered 2022 eyeing a maiden grand slam title and Barty’s top ranking.

But the Belarusian struggled badly against Juvan, the world No.100, crashing to a 7-6 (8-6) 6-1 loss to the Slovenian.

Incredibly, Sabalenka racked up 18 double faults, including 11 in the second set, and 49 unforced errors.

The win was Juvan’s first against a top-10 player and earned her a spot in the quarter-finals.

“I was feeling a little bit sorry at some points because I … knew she’s not doing the best with the serve and we all know how that feels,” Juvan said.

“I know she can do it better, but on the other hand it’s the start of the season, it depends on the day a little bit, and I really believed that I could do it.”

Sabalenka’s previous best performance at Melbourne Park was a round-of-16 appearance last year.

-AAP