The road to the top is not always smooth and straight, as world number 17 Ash Barty discovered when she did not have the game to match up against Lesia Tsurenko in the Brisbane International.
Barty lost rather meekly, 3 – 6, 2 – 6 to the player form Ukraine who is ranked 42nd.
Throughout the match, Barty seemed lackadaisical and hergroundstrokes were dull and inaccurate, a vast shift from what she had displayed during the second half of last season, when she was playing in the United States and Asia on her way up the ladder.
For Barty, it was her first match in Australia and the organisers of the Brisbane International had hoped for a strong showing by an Australian, especially after losing the attraction of Rafael Nadal, who opted to try some short format tennis as his lead-up to the Australian Open.
Tennis rankings are some of the most ephemeral, however, and a player in the top 20 losing to a player much lower is something that happens with distressing regularity, as the top player having an off day and the lower player having a great day often makes ranking number irrelevant.
Barty posted wins over three of last year’s grand slam finalists, which raised her ranking and her profile rapidly. She became the only Australian woman other than Samantha Stosur to make the top 20 since 2010.
Barty was naturally chagrinned after putting in a lot of hard work to get back into the mix after her cricket hiatus.
“I didn’t work so hard last year and in the off-season to spit the dummy after one match,’’ Barty said.“Tonight for me the polish wasn’t there and (against) any players in the top 50 when you’re not playing your best they are going to punish you.”
Barty and her coach Craig Tyzzer will have to spend some time evaluating the reason or reasons for Barty’s poor showing, whether it was over pressured by expectations or a lack of recent match play.