Ash Barty defeats Donna Vekic at Birmingham Classic 2019
Ashleigh Barty made an emphatic return to grass court tennis in the Birmingham Classic on Wednesday as she begins her quest for a French Open-Wimbledon double.
Barty brushed aside Croatia’s Donna Vekic 6-3 6-4 and showed no signs of needing time to readjust from clay to grass in a victory that took just 71 minutes.
The world No. 2 was a finalist at this event last year and can move to top spot in the rankings if she beats world No. 1 Naomi Osaka in the decider. After Birmingham, Barty will turn her attention to next week’s Eastbourne International, which includes a stellar field containing the likes of Simona Halep, Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova, before Wimbledon starts on July 1.
At the All England Club she’ll look to become only the third woman to achieve what is regarded as one of tennis’ hardest feats — going back to back in Paris in London.
Only Steffi Graf (1996) and Serena Williams (2015) have won at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the last 23 years, but Barty said transitioning from clay to grass holds no fears for her.
“I do find it quite easy,” she said. “Once I get back on the grass, I feel like a different person.
“It’s a different tennis match, a different way that the ball is struck and it comes through.
“I feel extremely comfortable on it. I know that it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to have results or I’m going to feel great on the court straightaway.
“But certainly knowing that there is not pressure for me and no real worries and stresses about the transition makes it a lot easier.”
The laid-back Queenslander admits she hasn’t got used to the tag of grand slam winner but is determined to not let it change her.
“It’s a nice burden to chuck on me,” she said.
“For me nothing changes. It was an incredible fortnight of tennis … and some of the best memories of my career will come from those two weeks.
“But I’m still the same person. I’m still the same Ash Barty and I try and prepare the same way.
“It was really nice to come out now and kind of get back into a normal routine of playing matches again but nothing’s changed for me.”
Elsewhere, in the draw, five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams overpowered Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3 6-4 and 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko beat British No. 1 Johanna Konta.
Originally published as Awesome Ash continues her winning ways