Australia’s world no. 1 and the defending champion in Miami, Ash Barty has staged a big comeback to keep her title defence alive.
A weak second serve that Barty returned with a forehand down-the-line winner is what saved her from elimination at the hands of the world no. 149, Kristina Kucova, a qualifier from Slovakia.
After a comfortable first set Barty, playing outside of Australia for the first time since the Qatar Open in late February of 2020, had to fight hard to defeat her opponent.
Barty had a break point opportunity at 4-4, 30-40 in the second set and could have been serving for the match. Instead she failed to convert and was broken in the next game to drop the set.
The break was setup by a good dipping passing shot that Barty volleyed into the net. Barty hit long to see Kucova take the set 6-4.
Serving at 1-2 in the third set, Barty went from 30-0 to 30-40 after a string of errors. The break came when Barty hit a shot wide of the doubles court.
Kucova consolidated the break for 4-1. A Barty hold and it was 4-2 with Kucova serving.
After being taken to deuce Kucova managed to hold after Barty dumped a backhand slice into the net. It was now 2-5 and Barty serving.
After Barty held the pressure was on Kucova. After Barty hit a terrible backhand slice into the net it was match point.
A slow first serve into the net showed that Kucova was feeling tight. The second serve just sat up and allowed Barty to pick her spot. She hit down the line with a forehand that was close to the sideline, but it was a winner.
The next point Kucova hit long before Barty hit a winner that tagged the opposite sideline to the one that she had hit near to save the match point.
Barty hit a forehand into the net to open the crucial 10th game. She then hit a forehand winner after a long rally to get to 15-15.
Back-to-back Aces took her to game point before a shot by Kucova hit the top of the net and fell onto her side and levelled the score at 5-5.
After winning the opening point Kucova hit two shots wide before two winners from Barty made it 6-5.
The world no. 1 lost the first point after hitting into the net. A shot over the baseline from Barty saw the score at 0-30.
Barty was then facing three break back points after a terrible looking drop shot fell into the net.
It was not that the Aces came again to save Barty. Two Aces and a good wide serve that setup the point where she would volley back behind her opponent to get deuce.
Barty kept thet ball deep and forced an error from Kucova. It was now match point for Barty. A wide serve was returned long and the match was over.
After a long struggle it was 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 to Barty. The match lasting 2 hours and 27 minutes.
Barty hit 15 Aces which matches the most in her career, the last time she hit 15 was when winning the title in Miami in 2019. Barty served not one double fault.
The Australian hit 44 winners to 12, but 56 unforced errors to 29. That is a stat that needs to improve.
Next up for Barty is Jelena Ostapenko.