Barty ma­jor threat

Sunday Herald Sun - - Tennis - JAMIE PANDARAM

WORLD No.2 An­gelique Ker­ber be­lieves Ash Barty has the tools to chal­lenge for a grand slam ti­tle in 2019, de­scrib­ing the Aus­tralian as a tricky op­po­nent to play.

Barty rose to No.15 in the world with a strong 2018 that fea­tured two WTA ti­tle wins.

She also reached the fourth round at the US Open — her best re­sult at a ma­jor — as well as the third round at the Aus­tralian Open and Wim­ble­don.

Barty, 22, en­joyed a solid Hop­man Cup, beat­ing Al­ize Cor­net and Gar­bine Mugu­ruza in straight sets be­fore los­ing to Ker­ber 6-4 6-4 in a tough con­test on Fri­day night.

Ker­ber, who has won three grand slam ti­tles, be­lieves Barty will be among the con­tenders in the ma­jors this year.

“Ash is a tricky op­po­nent — she’s a re­ally tal­ented player and you never know what ball she will play,” she said.

“It’s just (about) ex­pe­ri­ence she learned from last year — I think that she’s ready for sure to go to the next step.”

Barty has set her sights on crack­ing the top 10 this year.

Her hopes of go­ing one bet­ter than her fi­nal de­feat at last year’s Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional have been hit by a night­mare draw this week, while male hope Alex de Min­aur has landed on the same side as the de­fend­ing cham­pion.

Barty, who lost last year’s fi­nal to Ker­ber, faces 2017 French Open cham­pion Je­lena Ostapenko in the first round.

World No.1 Si­mona Halep awaits in the sec­ond round.

De Min­aur, who also made the Syd­ney fi­nal last year only to lose to Daniil Medvedev, will po­ten­tially face the Rus­sian in the quar­ter-fi­nals.

He opens his cam­paign against Serb Du­san La­jovic.

Barty’s fel­low Aussies Sam Sto­sur and Ajla Toml­janovic also have tough first-round en­coun­ters, but Daria Gavrilova faces a qual­i­fier.

Sto­sur takes on for­mer Aus­tralian Open fi­nal­ist Do­minika Cibulkova, while Toml­janovic faces Ital­ian Camila Giorgi, a semi-fi­nal­ist in Syd­ney last year.

The women’s draw fea­tures eight of the world’s top 10, with Span­ish dou­bles teammates Carla Suarez Navarro and Mugu­ruza fac­ing off.

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