Friday, March 8, 2019 - Ashleigh Barty plays Tatjana Maria in the 2nd round of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 5 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Elise Sterck/BNP Paribas Open)
It’s not every day you see a match like Ashleigh Barty versus Tatjana Maria. Both versatile players prefer slices off the backhand rather than topspin, an increasingly rare shot in the women’s game that delights crowds who get to witness it in action.
Barty, playing a tour-level event for the first time since a milestone quarterfinal finish at the Australian Open in January, found herself in a spot of bother early on, going down an early 1-4 deficit and showing clear signs of a lack of match play. Maria, on the other hand, already had a match under her belt and her comfort in the swirling desert conditions was evident early on as she attacked the Barty backhand with tactical confidence.
The Australian No. 1 wouldn’t be deterred, however, climbing back into the match with a deft mix of sliced lobs and curved forehand passing shots against an increasingly frustrated Maria. In the blink of an eye, 1-4 quickly evaporated into 6-4 and Barty found herself a set to the good.
The second set would be played at an even keel until a pivotal seventh game. The No. 12 seed, playing in Tennis Paradise for just second time (she lost to compatriot Sam Stosur in last year’s event), found the right mix of patience and proactivity, attacking the net on her available opportunities, forcing her German opponent into indecision and, subsequently, errors.
After an hour and a half of play, Barty emerged victorious, 6-4, 6-4. The three-time WTA titlist struck five aces and won a remarkable 70% of points on her first serve. She backed up impressive service numbers with five breaks of the Maria serve, securing her fourth consecutive win over the German and booking her a spot in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open for the first time.
Up next she faces American Jennifer Brady in the round of 32, a 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 winner over No. 19 seed Caroline Garcia.