Ash Barty is breathing easier after overcoming a second-set scare against former finalist Vera Zvonareva to safely progress to the US Open second round.
Barty had to save a set point in the tiebreaker before seeing off the Russian 6-1 7-6 (9-7) in a challenging opener at Flushing Meadows early on Wednesday (Australian time).
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.
“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,” the top seed said.
“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.”
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.
Up a set and a break, the Wimbledon champion dropped serve with a double-fault while trying to close out the match at 5-4 in the second set.
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 Danish teenager Clara Tauson on Friday for a place in the last 32.
Australian No.2 Ajla Tomljanovic also needed barely an hour to race into the second round earlier on day two.
The Wimbledon quarter-finalist had too many guns for American teenager Katie Volynets, casting aside the teenager 6-1 6-3 in 63 minutes on day two at Flushing Meadows.
Tomljanovic broke Volynets three times and was completely untroubled on her own serve, striking four aces and winning 89 per cent of points after landing her own delivery.
The victory set up a meeting with Czech Petra Martic on Friday.
Five more Australians play later, including veteran former champion Sam Stosur against 28th seed Anett Kontaveit.
Wildcard Storm Sanders meets Misaki Doi.
In men’s action, 2020 quarter-finalist Alex de Minaur, seeded 14th this year, opens his campaign against Taylor Fritz, Jordan Thompson plays Gianluca Mager of Italy and Max Purcell faces 13th seed Jannik Sinner.