Ashleigh Barty and CoCo Vandeweghe teamed up to win the doubles title at the U.S Open earlier this month. The two friends were on the court together again on Tuesday, but only one could walk away as the winner this time.
Barty dropped the first set then regrouped to win the next two, beating her playing partner 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the first round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open at Arena Tachikawa Tachihi on Tuesday.
“Obviously a very difficult match, playing a close friend and someone I’ve had success with very recently,” Barty said. “Difficult for both of us, but I think we respect each other enough to play hard and know that whoever played better today was going to come out with the win.”
On this day it was Barty, who broke the American twice in the second set and twice in the decider after missing out on both chances in the first set.
“I let a lot of opportunities slip early, particularly in the first set,” she said. “I think when I was finally able to break her serve in the second set, it kind of gave me a little bit of that belief that I could break her serve and I was in most of her service games. So it was just breaking serve and trying to get my nose in front a little bit.”
The Australian caught a break in the ninth game of the third set, going ahead 40-15 after Vandeweghe missed two consecutive shots that would’ve landed in for winners. Barty then won the next point to take a 5-4 advantage in the set. She broke Vandeweghe to go up 6-5 in the 11th game and then served out the match.
She used her backhand slices to great effect and also won points at the net and served four aces. Vandeweghe had eight, in a show of all-around tennis.
“A massive influence was my coach,” she said, referring to her first coach Jim Joyce, who she worked with at age 4. “When I was very young, he taught me all the shots and he said to me, ‘when you play tennis, you have to know all variety of shots.’ I think I do play a little bit more of a male game. It’s a little bit different from a lot of the girls. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But he taught me everything that I know.”
Tuesday’s match was the first WTA meeting between Barty and Vandeweghe, but they’re hardly strangers. They’ve played doubles together six times this year, including at the French and U.S. Opens. In addition to winning the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam for either, they also won the Miami Open title in March.
“It’s different I think because there’s that friendship there,” Barty said of the match. “Obviously when you play doubles with someone, you build a relationship and Coco and I have had an amazing amount of success in a very short time this year. We’ve gelled very well off the court and we’ve hit a lot together in the last three weeks in particular. It is a little bit different, but something you have to come across every now and again.”
The Australian will face Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka, who eliminated Kurumi Nara 6-4, 7-5, in the next round.
Great Britain’s Johanna Konta won her first-round matchup in straight sets, with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski.
“It was tough match out there,” Konta said. “I think she played really well at the beginning of the match and it was some high-quality tennis. I felt I kind of raised my level and she dropped off hers, especially at the beginning of that set. But it was a battle to the very end.”
Konta had to wait to find out if she would meet American Sloane Stephens of Croatia’s Donna Vekic in the next round.
“Regardless of who you’re playing now, in whichever round, it’s going to be a tough match,” Konta said before Vekic topped Stephens 6-4, 6-4.
In other first-round matches, American Alison Riske defeated Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 in a matchup of unseeded players. No. 8 seed Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic went through by defeating Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas 6-4, 6-4.
Japanese doubles pair Miyabi Inoue and Chihiro Muramatsu were eliminated in the first round by losing 6-3, 6-3 against Alicia Rosolska and Abigail Spears.