Ash Barty has made an emphatic statement at the Italian Open as three of her biggest French Open rivals went crashing out.
Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep all became high-profile casualties in Rome on Wednesday in a day of absolute carnage.
'GENIUS AT WORK': Ash Barty's insane act of clay court mastery
Williams and Osaka fell at the first hurdle in the French Open warmup event, while Halep suffered a torn calf and is highly doubtful of playing at Roland Garros.
But there were no such issues for Barty, who fired another massive warning shot at her rivals that she's the woman to beat in Paris.
In her opening match on Wednesday, the World No.1 was given an early examination by Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova before she reeled off 10 of the last 11 games to win 6-4 6-1 in 78 minutes.
By the end, she was in the groove which saw her power to the Stuttgart title and last week's final in Madrid as she sets her sights on another clay court title.
Barty was upbeat after overcoming a potentially awkward hurdle in 33-year-old Shvedova, a former world top-25 player who's been on an injury-hit comeback trail after taking a break to become a mother.
"I needed to give myself time to get used to conditions," the Queenslander explained afterwards.
"I always knew there was going to be a bit of an adjustment period and Slava's got a game that can take it away from you quite quickly.
"She got a fast start and I was just trying to work my way back into to give myself a chance."
Naomi Osaka's misery on clay continues
Meanwhile, World No.2 Osaka slumped to a 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 loss to American Jessica Pegula in her latest clay court stumble.
The four-time grand slam winner was unable to find her way back into the match after losing the first-set tie-break to her 31st-ranked opponent.
Osaka was playing just her third tournament since winning the Australian Open in February, having also exited in the second round in Madrid earlier this month.
The reigning US Open champion has seven career titles on hard court, but has never managed to lift a clay-court trophy.
The loss has raised more concerns about her French Open prospects, with her best result at Roland Garros the third round.
And Williams was out of sorts in her 1000th career match, outplayed by Nadia Podoroska 7-6 (8-6) 7-5.
The 39-year-old succumbed in her first match since defeat to Osaka in the Australian Open semi-final in February.
Williams wasn't too dismayed by her defeat to the Argentine Podorska, the French Open semi-finalist, after her long break.
"It's tough to have a first match on clay," she said.
"It was definitely kind of good to go the distance and to try to be out there, but clearly I can do legions better."
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