Ash Barty has fought back from a worrying mid-match collapse against compatriot Daria Gavrilova to book her spot in the third round of the Australian Open.
Sporting a heavily taped left leg that sent a scare through viewers and fans, Barty won the all-Australian clash 6-1 7-6 (9/7) on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday afternoon.
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Fresh from her historic "double bagel" victory in the opening round, Barty looked in ominous form early on against Gavrilova.
The World No.1 needed just 27 minutes to breeze through the opening set and looked on course to waltz into the third round when she jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the second.
With the 24-year-old serving for the match, Gavrilova managed to grab an all-important break back.
The World No. 387 - riding a wave of renewed momentum then claimed the next three games in a row to take an unlikely 6-5 lead.
Commentator Sam Smith said she "didn't see that coming", with viewers left stunned by the dramatic turn of events.
The frustration was clearly taking its toll on Barty, who at one point hit out at her left thigh which was heavily strapped.
Barty finally managed to stem the bleeding by holding serve to force a second set tiebreaker.
Incredibly, it was Gavrilova who set up the first opportunity to take the second set and level the contest.
However, Barty staved off the set point, before claiming the next two points to book her spot in the next round.
Heavy leg taping leave fans worried
Fans couldn't believe Barty's mid-match collapse, with many concerned about what effect her leg issue was having on her game.
How worried should we be about Barty? How bad is that thigh? This is very unlike her.
— Vike Queen, J.D. (@VikeQueen85) February 11, 2021
watching Barty vs Gavrilova earlier and i thought it was gonna be straight sets for Barty with 61 42 but then bam it’s a tight second set w 56 for Gavrilova now
— 歩夢 (@s261197) February 11, 2021
Barty was up 61 52, but now it's 5-6 in second set with Gavrilova leading. Barty smacking her taped left thigh in frustration. #AusOpen
— Erik Gudris (@ATNtennis) February 11, 2021
Wondering, as are commentators, how much that taped left thigh is bothering Barty as this second set crumbles on her. #AusOpen
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) February 11, 2021
That taping on Barty looks very worrying. This flop at serving out the match is even more so.
— Naw Tea (@NawTea2) February 11, 2021
— Dark Angel Indii (@Indian_two) February 11, 2021
Talking about Barty’s apparent injury, Sam Smith said: “There has to be an enormous amount of concern” about Barty.
However, the Aussie addressed the injury concerns in her post-match interview, admitting that the taping on her leg made the issue appear worse than it was.
“I’m as fit as a fiddle,” she declared.
Despite winning the Yarra Valley Classic last week in her first tournament back after almost a year out of tennis, Barty said she was still trying to find her A game.
"Obviously having 12 months off it's a little bit rusty but I'm certainly happy with how I've been able to fight though the last couple of weeks," she said.
In a rare sight in the cut-throat world of professional tennis, Barty and Gavrilova spent about an hour warming up together side by side on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday morning.
But after posing happily for a pre-match photo together at the net, Barty swiftly put her game face on.
The top seed dropped her opening service game but immediately struck back, reeling off six consecutive games to pocket the first set in 27 minutes.
The two combatants are separated by 386 spots in the rankings as Gavrilova continues a comeback from her own year-long layoff with a foot injury.
But that didn't stop Gavrilova from making Barty sweat after rattling off four games in a row to force the second-set breaker.
"When you play another Aussie, you play a compatriot, the rankings go out the window. Experience goes out the window," Barty said.
"Typically you know each other very well so it was always going to be a tricky match no matter what."
A semi-finalist last year, Barty will return on Saturday to play Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova or Czech Barbora Krejcikova for a fourth-round berth.
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