Ash Barty has put her French Open rivals on notice, taking down reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek at the Madrid Open.
The World No.1 beat the Polish teenager 7-5 6-4 on Monday in a much-anticipated showdown between the past two Roland Garros champions.
'REALLY BAD': Tennis fans stunned by Naomi Osaks shocker
Barty opted out of her title defence last year in Paris amid health concerns during the coronavirus pandemic, but has wasted little time proving she'll be the player to beat at the season's second grand slam starting May 30.
Barty rallied from 3-0 down in the opening set, and was never again broken after that, improving her record against top-20 players in 2021 to 9-0.
"I really enjoyed myself out there tonight. I enjoyed the challenge," Barty said after booking a quarter-final date with ninth seed Petra Kvitova.
"Iga's game is exceptional. It's really, really impressive.
"I love testing myself and trying to figure out the puzzle tonight and the challenges that she created for me."
While putting Swiatek in her place, Barty was nevertheless hugely impressed by the young Pole's game.
"I love the way that she plays. I love the way she takes the game on. She plays without fear," Barty said.
"I think the way she controls the court, has the ability to move and neutralise from defensive position is very, very impressive."
Ash Barty ends Iga Swiatek's clay-court streak
Swiatek had won 18 consecutive sets on the surface dating back to her own French Open triumph last November.
She looked on track to continue that streak before Barty found her way into the contest.
"Probably the first half an hour was a bit of an adjustment period for both of us," Barty said.
"It took me some time to get used to Iga's weight of shot.
"Obviously, we had a game plan going into it, but I had to adjust that and had to kind of learn on the fly a little bit.
"It took me some time to get used to that and kind of nut down what I really wanted to do out there.
"Once I was able to do that, I became a lot more clear and was able to control the match a little bit more the way that I wanted to."
Barty's win had the tennis world sining her praises ahead of the French Open.
Ash Barty’s 14-match streak on red clay:
d. Swiatek pic.twitter.com/i7hYBgaVKb
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) May 3, 2021
Ash Barty takes out reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek in straight sets.... that’s putting a marker down heading into Roland Garros
— 🎗️ Paul McNamee (@PaulFMcNamee) May 3, 2021
#1 Ash Barty wins the match of the two most recent French Open champions, beating Iga Swiatek 7-5, 6-4.
Shout out to the Madrid DJ for this techno “The Winner Takes It All” post-match.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 3, 2021
Barty just went and ripped out Iga's soul ON CLAY! I'm gonna overreact and say it: Ash Barty is the French Open favorite now.
Great win by Barty over Iga Swiatek in what could be a preview of the French Open final, but I loved her post match comments more. Hope it was the first of many! #MMOPEN #WTAMadrid https://t.co/RR06s7Tj0J
— GV (@GoldenViews00) May 3, 2021
Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.