Reigning champion Ash Barty opens her Adelaide International title defence on Wednesday night against a player who very nearly prevented her from becoming the 2020 winner.
World No.1 Barty will take on Danielle Collins for a place in the quarterfinals at Memorial Drive, part of a bumper Day 3 schedule that also features reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek, No.2 seed Belinda Bencic and American teen star Coco Gauff.
Barty takes on Collins in the first of the night matches before Swiatek faces Australian qualifier Maddison Inglis, who has built a three-match winning streak.
Earlier on Wednesday, Gauff plays sixth seed Petra Martic, while Bencic plays the second match of the day at Memorial Drive Centre Court.
No.4 seed Elise Mertens opens the day’s play against former world No.11 Anastasija Sevastova.
Barty and Collins last clashed in the 2020 semifinals in Adelaide, a thrilling match before a packed crowd that Barty won 3-6 6-1 7-6(5).
The Aussie then beat Dayana Yastremska in the final to win her first tour-level title on home soil.
“I think another opportunity to play in Australia, to play in front of fans here in Adelaide is going to be awesome,” Barty said.
“After the Australian Open we weren’t sure what the calendar was going to look like and what we were going to do. A lot was going to depend on how my body felt. So I’m extremely grateful to have an opportunity to play here and defend my title.
“Obviously it’s somewhere where I’ve had such good memories.”
Barty’s Australian Open campaign ended in the quarterfinals against Karolina Muchova.
Shortly after the match, Barty described the result as “heartbreaking”. But with some time and space between herself and that loss, she had framed it more positively by the time she arrived in Adelaide.
“All losses are tough. None are painful,” said Barty, who had led Muchova 6-1 2-0 before the Czech recovered to win in three.
“I think for me there’s only positives to gain from it, the learnings are positive, and we come into another opportunity here this week in Adelaide where we have a place where we have had great memories before.
“It’s really nice to be back here and having another opportunity to play again.”
This is actually Barty’s second visit to Adelaide in 2021; the Australian played in the Day at the Drive exhibition event against Simona Halep on 29 January.
Simona Halep has defeated Aussie favourite Ash Barty at A Day at the Drive in a battle between the world’s top two women, after Nadal took on Dominic Thiem in a clash between the reigning French and US Open champions #AdelaideTennis https://t.co/pOhVebxo7K
— Adelaide International (@AdelaideTennis) January 29, 2021
It was her first appearance on court after almost a year out of the game, and it preceded an incredible run for the world No.1, who headed to Melbourne and won the WTA Yarra Valley Classic before her AO quarterfinal appearance.
She had won eight straight matches before Muchova eventually delivered Barty her first loss of the season.
And she was thrilled to be competing again.
“I think what excites me the most is being able to do what I love on a regular basis and being able to do it week in, week out. Go through all of the emotions that comes with being a professional athlete,” Barty said.
“I think that’s all the work that you do in between week in week out is what I’ve kind of missed the most.
“So I think hopefully we get to do that this year, we get to do it soon and kind of start again. A massive reason why we wanted to play here in Adelaide this week was to continue that momentum that we built through the last month here in Australia.
“Playing Australia’s always something that I love to do … I think another opportunity to play in Australia, to play in front of fans here in Adelaide is going to be awesome.”