By Martyn Herman
PARIS (Reuters) – Australian eighth seed Ashleigh Barty is not known for extravagant outfits, preferring to let her tennis do the talking on court, but she made an impression on both counts as she began her French Open campaign in style on Monday.
Barty was far too good for American Jessica Pegula, winning 6-3 6-3 on Roland Garros’s so-called bullring court kitted out in a black and white striped zebra kit.
“I don’t mind it. I think it looks pretty good against the clay,” Miami champion Barty told reporters of her new Fila kit.
“It’s very cool. They’ve kind of released it sporadically over the year. I think it pops.
“I picked it up and I was like, oh wow! Obviously when I put it on, it’s not as out there as I thought it would be. But I’m happy to wear whatever.”
The 23-year-old Queenslander has enjoyed a stunning year so far, reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open then claiming the best title of her career in Miami.
There was a slight concern when she pulled out of the Strasbourg tournament last week with an arm injury but she showed no sign of it against Pegula.
Barty has never been past the second round in five previous visits to the French Open but with her confidence soaring she seems primed to rectify that record this year.
“A little bit scratchy, but solid enough when I needed it,” was her verdict after her victory. “I think overall, not knowing Jess overly well, I was able to figure it out when I needed to.
“There were moments in the match when it was tighter, but I was able to be really solid again and do the basics well.”
While Barty, and former runner-up Sam Stosur, will shoulder Australian women’s hopes, Alex De Minaur, the men’s 21st seed, scored his first French Open main draw victory on Monday to snap a five-match losing streak dating back to February.
The 20-year-old has been struggling to overcome a groin injury on the slippery European claycourts, but he was in commanding form to beat Bradley Klahn 6-1 6-4 6-4 on Monday.
“To be able to finally sort of end this drought I’ve been having, it hasn’t been easy,” he told reporters.
“I really felt like I needed a win just for me personally and mentally. Things hadn’t really gone my way, but it’s good to
see the results finally get back. And to be back at 100 percent, that the main thing.
“It was safe to say that I was very pumped to start today.”
De Minaur will face a stern test of his form and fitness in round two against Spain’s 57th ranked Pablo Carreno Busta.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)