Ashleigh Barty’s bid to win Wimbledon, half a century after fellow indigenous Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley won her first singles title, got off to a winning start while Venus Williams marked her record 90th Grand Slam appearance with a three-set victory over Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania on Tuesday.
However, 18 first round matches were pushed back to Wednesday with men’s doubles matches cut to best-of-three sets in the first two rounds in an effort to make up the backlog.
Top seed Barty scored a 6-1, 6-7 (1/7), 6-1 victory over Carla Suarez Navarro, showing little sign of the hip injury that forced her to retire from the French Open.
The 25-year-old has never been beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon but two breaks of serve in the first set and then one at 4-4 in the second seemed to have set her up with a routine victory. However, with errors creeping into Barty’s game Spaniard Suarez Navarro broke back and the set went into a tie-break.
Suarez Navarro – who has only returned to play in recent months after battling cancer – dominated it and held five set points taking it with the first one 7-6 (7/1). Barty, though, pulled herself together and played more like the world number one she is in the deciding set.
The 41-year-old Venus Williams, who is a five-time champion at the All England Club, triumphed 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
The American first played Wimbledon in 1997 and is making her 23rd appearance at the tournament. Now ranked at 111 in the world, she fired 10 aces and 33 winners to defeat her 160th-ranked opponent.
Up next is Tunisian 21st seed Ons Jabeur who eased past Rebecca Peterson of Sweden 6-2, 6-1.
Barty praised Suarez Navarro after the 32-year-old had walked off court to a standing ovation on what is her 11th and final appearance at The Championships.
Suarez Navarro – whose mother Maris had been taking photos of her daughter and shed a tear as she left the court – is ending her career this year with the Olympics in Tokyo and the US Open left on her schedule.
“It was incredible to share the court with Carla after her incredible career got a little bit longer,” said Barty. “She is a fighter, an incredible competitor and lovely person and I cannot find one bad word to say about her. She is a geniune champion and will be sorely missed.”
Barty had no warm-up tournaments prior to Wimbledon due to her injury but said her body was feeling fine.
She said she had been honoured to open Centre Court play on Tuesday in place of defending champion Simona Halep who withdrew last Friday due to a calf injury.
Barty had prepared her own tribute to Cawley – who is a mentor and close friend – by wearing a dress inspired by the iconic scallop design worn by her compatriot when she won in 1971.
“This is the very least I could do as a tribute to a champion on the 50th anniversary of her title,” said Barty.
“To wear one after her iconic dress is special and I hope in a very small way makes her proud.”
Ashleigh Barty (AUS x1) bt Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP) 6-1, 6-7 (1/7), 6-1
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) bt Kiki Bertens (NED x17) 6-3, 6-4
Venus Williams (USA) bt Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROM) 7-5, 4-6, 6-3
Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) bt Kaia Kanepi (EST) 6-4, 6-2
Madison Brengle (USA) bt Christina McHale (USA) 3-6, 7-5, 10-8
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x8) bt Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 7-5, 6-4
Tereza Martincova (CZE) bt Alison Riske (USA x28) 6-2, 4-6, 6-1
Lin Zhu (CHN) bt Mona Barthel (GER) 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 6-3
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) bt Marie Bouzková (CZE) 7-5, 6-4
Elise Mertens (BEL x13) bt Harriet Dart (GBR) 6-1, 6-3
Nadia Podoroska (ARG) bt Ann Li (USA) 6-4, 7-6 (7/1)
Claire Liu (USA) bt Misaki Doi (JPN) 2-6, 6-3, 9-7
Shelby Rogers (USA) bt Samantha Stosur (AUS) 6-1, 5-7, 6-3
Donna Vekic (CRO) bt Anastasia Potapova (RUS) 6-1, 6-4
Ons Jabeur (TUN x21) bt Rebecca Peterson (SWE) 6-2, 6-1
Maria Sakkari (GRE x15) bt Arantxa Rus (NED) 6-1, 6-1
Andrea Petkovic (GER) bt Jasmine Paolini (ITA) 6-4, 6-3
Angelique Kerber (GER x25) bt Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 6-4, 6-3
With AFP Inputs