Ash Barty has fired a warning to her rivals ahead of her Roland Garros campaign after she claimed her clay court game is better than when she won her maiden Grand Slam title in 2019.
The World No.1 missed the 2020 season on clay due to the Covid-19 pandemic but has returned even stronger after winning 16 consecutive matches in a row before falling in the Madrid Open final against Aryna Sabalenka in the Spanish decider.
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Only Serena Williams has more consecutive wins on clay than Barty.
Barty admitted she felt some fatigue after her Madrid Open defeat, but also said it was a "good problem to have" as she prepared to pack her bags to fly off to Rome.
But the Australian has now sent a warning to her opponents that she feels a more complete player on the red surface compared to two years ago.
"It hasn't really surprised me," Barty said on Tuesday night from Rome ahead of this week's Italian Open.
"Probably what's been most pleasing is the consistent level from the start of the tournament right to the end.
"There haven't been too many really big drops, which has been a massive thing.
"I'd like to think after a couple of years' experience playing on it, more matches, playing in different clay, different conditions, I'd love to say I've learned more and been able to kind of hone my craft a bit more on clay."
Barty's humble take on French Open chances
The Madrid Open final defeat was the 25-year-old's first loss on European clay since falling in three sets to Williams at the 2018 French Open.
Barty's sublime form as most putting her as the favourite ahead of the French Open, considering World No.2 Naomi Osaka's struggle on the red surface.
But the ever-humble Aussie does not believe she is the woman to beat.
"It's going to be exciting to walk on (Court Philippe) Chatrier again and just soak it all in. But in my eyes, I certainly don't go into Paris as the favourite. Not by any means," she said.
"There are some exceptional clay courters, some of the best that we've ever seen probably across our sport that are playing at the moment.
"So I go into it with a really clean slate, with fresh eyes and try to do the best that I can.
"Whether that's a first round, a quarter-final or a final or whatever it is, it's about going out there and doing the best that I can for that match and if the results come, they come.
"And if they don't, I won't lose any sleep over it."
Despite being humble, Barty is preparing for a second Grand Slam title in Paris and is set to arrive a week ahead of the tournament and train in regional France.
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