ASHLEIGH Barty hopes to strike a delicate balance between offence and defence in her bold bid to cut short Serena Williams’ much-hyped grand slam return in Paris.
Tennis’s two comeback queens clash in centre-court showstopper at Roland Garros on Thursday night (EST), with bookmakers handing Australia’s 17th seed slight favouritism against the returning three-time French Open champion.
Blessed with one of the sharpest tennis minds in the business, Barty’s game plan will be to boss Williams from side to side in an attempt to exhaust the underdone grand slam colossus.
Williams conceded she was unable to fully gauge her level in her first major championship outing in 16 months against big-serving Czech Kristyna Pliskova, such was the soaring ace tally and lack of extended rallies in their first-round tussle.
But the 36-year-old remains confident she can go the distance in only her sixth match since childbirth last September.
“I feel like the second set we had a lot more rallies and we were getting in the rhythm a little bit more, and that kind of helped a little bit,” the American said.
“I feel like I’m on the right track. I’ve been putting a lot of work in on the court, off the court, on the court, on the court, off the court. That’s kind of been my life.
“I have been really enjoying it. Hopefully the results continue to show.”
The crafty Barty, though, will try to drag the 23-times grand slam champion out of her comfort zone on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
“There has to be a very good balance between being aggressive and then being able to defend as well,” Barty said of her clay-court tactics.
“There are not all times when you’re in control and sometimes things are out of your control with bounces and (balls) hitting the lines and so forth.”
Ordinarily, Barty and Williams would be a second-week clash. But with officials controversially overlooking the 451st-ranked Williams for a seeding, one will be making a premature departure.
“It’s how the cookie crumbles,” said Barty, unfazed about the challenge and diplomatic if she agreed with Williams’ non-seeding.
“It’s an extremely tough question. I think probably in certain ways, yes, and I agree with those arguments; and then also I agree with arguments where it’s no.
“I know that the WTA are going through all the right processes … and I think there are valid arguments both ways.”
Both stars warmed up for the showdown with first-round doubles matches on Wednesday night (EST).
Williams teammed with sister Venus for a 4-6 6-4 6-1 win over Japanese pair Shuko Aoyama and Miyu Karto, while Barty – a finalist with Casey Dellacqua last year – and American Coco Vandeweghe suffered a disappointing 2-6 6-4 6-4 loss to Croatians Donna Vekic and Darija Jurak.
The singles victor between Barty and Williams will play either German 12th seed Julia Goerges or Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck for a place in the last 16.
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