Up a set with a break point in the very first game of the second set, it looked like world #1 Barty was cruising home with a nice and easy return to Roland Garros. She won the title in 2019 and did not compete up last year because of COVID. However, the rest of the match was far from straightforward.
French Open First Round: Ashleigh Barty vs Bernarda Para
In the second set Bernarda Pera, the American who’s reached the third round of a Grand Slam, finally arrived to the party. After a dismal opening set, where she hit 18 unforced errors in just ten games–alongside getting just 40% of first serves in–Pera came to play. Move over to the second set after. After a tough early hold she simply let her shoulders loose, hitting winners from all over the court and winning a stunning 73% of points behind her first serve. A single break would be enough with such great serving and into the third we were headed.
For the opening few games of the third set it was rather even. You could even argue Pera was the better player up until 2-2. The American was the only one of the two to have break point opportunities; if she took one of them at 1-1 who knows how this would have ended. Barty, being the great champion she is, however, of course managed to steady the boat. Her love hold at 2-2 became the biggest turning point of the match.
In the past, the 26-year-old American has shown us several times how big and effective her game can be–but never in long enough periods against the very best. Unfortunately for her and her fans, her level didn’t just drop significantly; it’s not an understatement to say she went from 100 to zero real fast. After the love hold for Barty for 3-2, things went south rather fast. Barty became relentless returning second serves, with Pera just winning one of six points behind it in the final set. Once again, errors started flowing off the American’s racket as well.
It was a tough fight, but ultimately you can see why Barty is the world #1. Despite Pera playing amazing for half the match, the Australian managed to settle the storm and force the lower ranked woman into feeling the pressure and playing some of her worst tennis when push came to shove–just highlighted by her absurd 19 unforced errors in the final set, most in the last four games.
Ashleigh Barty will face the winner of Magda Linette vs Chloe Paquet in the second round on Thursday.