Aus Open Round 1: Spicy history behind Barty and Lesia Tsurenko

On paper, it should be a routine first-round disposal of a qualifier for No.1-seeded Ash Barty. But there’s some history between the Aussie and Ukraine that adds spice.

A qualifier in the first round for the No.1 seed would normally barely rate a ripple.

But for Ash Barty her opening match-up with Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko brings with it some history.

Back in 2018 a red-hot Tsurenko, who was then ranked No.42, took down Barty in front of her home crowd at the Brisbane International.

Two years later the pair again faced off, this time in the opening round of the Australian Open where again the Ukrainian proved to be a handful.

Tsurenko claimed the first set 7-5 before Barty found her rhythm to close out the final two sets 6-1 6-1.

Ash Barty was beaten by Lesia Tsurenko at the 2018 Brisbane International. Picture: AAP
Ash Barty was beaten by Lesia Tsurenko at the 2018 Brisbane International. Picture: AAP

While the Australian holds a 2-1 head-to-head advantage and obviously their careers have gone in very different directions since Brisbane, the match-up will have had red flags around it for the Barty camp.

Tsurenko, a quarter-finalist at the 2018 US Open, reached her career high ranking of No.23 in 2019.

She has since slipped out to be ranked 120th but the 32-year-old was dominant through qualifying last week, not dropping a set on her way into the main draw.

While all the focus when the draw was released was on a possible fourth-round match-up with defending champion Naomi Osaka, Barty has some challenges with Tsurenko and then possibly 30th seed Camila Giorgi in the third-round.

Lesia Tsurenko has been a tough customer for Barty in the past. Picture: AAP
Lesia Tsurenko has been a tough customer for Barty in the past. Picture: AAP

For Barty none of this really impacts given the way she has changed her approach to tennis, focusing on enjoyment and being the best version of herself rather than what her opponent’s forehand does.

This philosophy has seen her crowned world No.1 for the third year running.

“There is certainly a regimen and a routine that we follow, but in saying that we also have fun, that’s one of the most important things in the way we’ve gone about it in the last couple of years – to enjoy ourselves and not take life too seriously,” Barty said.

“Be really present in the moment and enjoy it for what it is.”

Barty suffered a shock loss to Karolina Muchova in last year’s quarter-finals after claiming the opening set 6-1 and being a break up in the second set before a controversial medical time-out by the Czech changed the course of the match.

Barty dealt with Tsurenko at the 2020 Australian Open. Picture: Mark Stewart
Barty dealt with Tsurenko at the 2020 Australian Open. Picture: Mark Stewart

Her best effort at Melbourne Park was in 2020 when she lost to eventual champion Sofia Kenin in the semi-final.

The last Australian to make the final at the hometown Slam was Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.

“I can’t do any more than I can try. That’s all I can do. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen,” Barty said.

“I just have to hope that everyone understands that I’m giving it my best crack. It doesn’t always work out exactly how you want to. But you go about it the right way, you do the right things and try to give yourself the best chance, that’s all you can do.”

Australia’s other main hope in the women’s draw, Ajla Tomljanovic, faces a tough opening match against No.8 seed Paula Badosa.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Ash Barty v Lesia Tsurenko
Monday night, Rod Laver Arena, not before 7pm
Last meeting: Barty 5-7 6-1 6-1 (Aus Open 2020, first round)
Barty leads head to head record 2-1
 
Ash Barty
Ranking: 1
Career high ranking: 1 (since 2019)
Age: 25
Height: 1.66m
Career titles: 14
Career prize money: $US21.655m
 
Lesia Tsurenko
Ranking: 119
Career high ranking: 23 (Feb 2019)
Age: 32
Height: 1.74m
Career titles: 4
Career prize money: $US4.797m

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