'Long time': Ash Barty's stunning first since French Open triumph

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·3-min read
Ash Barty, pictured here with her French Open trophy in 2019.
Ash Barty celebrates with her French Open trophy in 2019. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ash Barty will play her first match on European clay on Thursday since her French Open triumph in 2019.

The World No.1 faces an immediate test of her clay-court credentials when she plays former champion and home hope Laura Siegemund at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.

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There will be no time to ease into the tournament as Barty makes her first appearance on the European red dirt since winning the French Open in June of 2019.

Barty opted against defending her French Open crown last year while remaining in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Polish teenager Iga Swiatek surged to the title in her absence.

The 24-year-old is set to play further clay-court events in Madrid, Rome and Strasbourg before the French Open starts on May 30.

"It's a long time since I've played at the French Open obviously and it's a fresh start, a fresh start for everyone in that event," Barty said.

"If you go into a tournament thinking you're defending a title, I believe that's the wrong way to approach it."

Siegemund not only won the title in her home city of Stuttgart in 2017 but also reached the final the year before.

The German is promising the World No.1 a tough route to the last eight after top-seeded Barty enjoyed a first-round bye.

"I have no pressure. It's really my court so in a way she's coming to my court and hopefully I can show her that also," Siegemund said after ousting compatriot Mona Barthel 6-4 3-6 6-1 on Wednesday.

Ash Barty, pictured here in action at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston.
Ash Barty in action at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Siegemund confident of upsetting Barty

Barty beat the German No.2 in straight sets their only previous meeting, in Doha last year on hard court, a surface on which she's already claimed two titles in 2021.

But Siegemund fancies herself on the slower surface.

"I do think I have more chances than on hard court," Siegemund said.

"Still, I have to play very good tennis. She's a good all-round player, I saw her also in practise this week and she's just a tough competitor because her game is so versatile.

"It's hard but I prefer to play her on clay than hard court, that's for sure.

"It would be a great win for me to do, one thing on the list as one of my biggest wins so that makes it easier to find that motivation."

Siegemund confessed to finding it tough playing without fans against Barthel.

"Against Ash, that's a different calibre and it will be a bit easier to find my inner stride because it's going to be a very hard match and it's going to be difficult for me to win," she said.

"But as hard as it is without the spectators and with it being so quiet, it's still a beautiful court that holds a lot of positive memories for me here and not everything of that goes away because the people aren't here."

with AAP

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