Ashleigh Barty played only four tournaments in 2020 and still finished as year-end world no. 1. Ashleigh won the title in Adelaide and had a deep run at the Australian Open and Doha in February. The semi-final loss in Doha turned to be Barty's last match of the previous season, traveling home when the coronavirus canceled the competition and not returning when the action restarted in August.
On Friday, Ashleigh returned to the court in Adelaide where she won the title a year ago, playing an exhibition match against Simona Halep at A Day at the Drive. Halep won the encounter 3-6, 6-1, 10-8 but Barty was pleased by the sheer fact she was on the court again, loving the feeling and waiting for more of the same in Melbourne.
Ashleigh held in the first game with a forehand winner before Simona got her name on the scoreboard with a service winner in game two.
Ashleigh Barty is happy to be back on the court.
The home favorite hit two winners at deuce in game three and grabbed a break in game six following Halep's forced mistake.
Serving for the set, Ashleigh landed a service winner at 5-3 to win the first set in 29 minutes, looking very good on the court. Simona saved a break point at the beginning of the second set, and that was the turning point, as she started to play much better in the rest of the encounter.
Halep scored a break at 2-1 following a massive mistake from Barty at the net and another at 4-1 thanks to a smash error from the Aussie. Simona closed the set with a service winner and introduced a match tie break, winning it 10-8 to prevail and kick off the season with a win.
"It's fantastic to be back. I genuinely missed this so much. It's just been great to be back. I've been getting a little bit impatient these past two or three months, getting ready to play. I've trained over the last few months, but nothing can replicate what we just did out here today, and there's a little bit of execution, of course, that we'd like to get right, but I just enjoyed it so much.
I think that's the most important thing – when you come back out on the court, you love what you do. I'm excited to get started, and if it's not good next week, it might be the week after. I'll keep chipping away, trying to do the best that I can each day," Ashleigh Barty said.