Embracing the hype and pressure, Ash Barty has made an early Australian Open statement with a 6-0 6-1 thrashing of Lesia Tsurenko to cruise into the second round.
In a ruthless performance on Rod Laver Arena, a steely eyed Barty raced through the straight-sets victory in just 54 minutes to continue her perfect start to the year.
Australia's world No.1 opened the season with singles and doubles glory in Adelaide and stamped her Open favouritism once more on Monday night.
In her third consecutive year as the top fancy in her home slam, Barty conceded she still had to handle the butterflies of hitting centre court on opening night.
"It never changes. I think I'm probably more relaxed before I walk out onto court, but once I do walk out there, it's, for me, always a little bit of a dry mouth and it's exciting to know that we are warming up to play the Australian Open," she said.
"You have to be able to enjoy these moments and certainly not take them for granted. So I think it's probably a little bit twofold.
"I'm quite relaxed before, and I know what I'm going to go out there and try and do.
"But once you do get out there, there is that five minutes for the warm-up and settling in before that first point is played, always nice to settle those butterflies a little bit."
If Barty felt the weight of expectation, she certainly didn't show it, appearing relatively nonplussed as she dismantled Tsurenko.
The top seed also played Tsurenko in the first round at Melbourne Park in 2020.
On that occasion, Barty had to fight back from a set down to reach the second round.
But there were few moments of resistance from Tsurenko this time around as an imperious Barty took just 24 minutes to claim the first set, dropping only 12 points.
Barty staved off an early attack from Tsurenko, comfortably saving two break points when leading 2-0, then kicked into another gear to seize the upper hand.
It extended her run of matches without being broken to four, while Barty has now notched 41 consecutive service holds.
"The last kind of five or six matches I felt like I found a really good rhythm on my service games," she said.
"I've been able to get out of some tricky ones and kind of serve my way out of some tricky spots."
Barty was similarly dominant in the second set, racing through the first five games.
She spurned two match points on Tsurenko's serve that could have earned her first-round double-bagel wins at the Open two years in a round.
But the Wimbledon champion made no mistake on her own serve, closing out victory in less than an hour.
It came the same day it was announced Barty had donated the outfit she wore during her 2021 Wimbledon triumph, which was a poignant nod to her idol Evonne Goolagong Cawley, to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.
Barty will play Lucia Bronzetti on Wednesday after the Italian qualifier beat Russia's Varvara Gracheva 3-6 6-2 6-3.
Australian Associated Press
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