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‘It looked like she never stopped playing’: Dokic backs Barty for Open

Dokic said it was remarkable for Barty to win first-up in Melbourne after the hiatus that saw her miss both the US Open and French Open last year.

“To win a WTA event a year after you last played is incredible,” Dokic told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

“She played really well. She moved well. She had a couple of tight matches but she was able to get through, which is never easy when you haven’t played for a year. It’s never easy to get into those tighter matches – you never know how you’re going to react under pressure.”

Two of Barty’s leading challengers for the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, world No.3 Naomi Osaka and 23-times major champion Serena Williams, both won in clinical style on Monday.

Dokic, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2000, said those three were the stand-out favourites, with Barty having the slight ascendancy.

“I think she’s in great form. She was able to back it up physically, as well, which is a huge bonus. Going into the Australian Open she’s definitely the favourite to be honest, in my opinion,” she said.

“Obviously there’s a lot of other players that have played well. The other two would be Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. But I definitely think that Ash has a great chance to win.”

Jelena Dokic pictured at the 2009 Australian Open.

Jelena Dokic pictured at the 2009 Australian Open. Credit:Vince Caligiuri

Eagle-eyed pundits are looking for obvious changes to Barty’s game. Dokic pointed to Barty’s willingness to attack the net as a positive sign. Other modifications aren’t as obvious, Dokic said.

“It’s really hard with Ash because she’s just got every shot in the book really – obviously you can always improve,” said Dokic.

“I was just looking more at how her footwork, her movement would be, and her court coverage, which is never easy [to find] after a year off.

“It looked like she never stopped playing really, which is incredible. Everything is there. The serve is there, the percentages are there, it’s working like it always has.

“I like the fact that she’s also coming in, which is always good, and showed that she’s playing well.

“I’m not really sure that you can say or pick anything that she didn’t do well with last week.”

Barty enters back-to-back Australian Opens with the No.1 ranking next to her name. That status comes with pressure. The 2019 champion and former world No.1 Osaka confirmed there were additional expectations on the game’s top player ahead of a major.

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“For my own experience, I feel like there is,” Osaka said after a 6-1, 6-2 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

“Also my mindset is very different from other people because, like, I felt when I was No. 1, I had to do more. I felt like I had this responsibility to sort of try to carry it the way like [Roger] Federer and the big three did, like how Serena was for such a long time.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself that way. I feel like whatever ranking you are, like if you’re seeded, you feel like … you have to win sort of, but you have to overcome that feeling.”

Jelena Dokic is a Nine commentator. Key Australian matches are broadcast all day on the Nine network and 9Gem. Every point of every match across the tournament is available to stream for free on 9Now.

Australian Open 2021 Day Two Schedule

ROD LAVER ARENA

From 11am: 4-Sofia Kenin (US) v WC-Maddison Inglis (Aus); Marie Bouzkova (Cze) v 5-Elina Svitolina (Ukr); Laslo Djere (Srb) v 2-Rafael Nadal (Spn).

From 7pm: 1-Ash Barty (Aus)  v Danka Kovinic (Mnt); 5-Stefanos Tsitsipas (Gre) v Gilles Simon (Fra).

MARGARET COURT ARENA

From 11am: 14-Garbine Muguruza (Spn) v LL-Margarita Gasparyan (Rus); 12-Victoria Azarenka (Blr) v Jessica Pegula (US); Vasek Pospisil (Can) v 4-Daniil Medvedev (Rus).

From 7pm: Kevin Anderson (RSA) v 9-Matteo Berrettini (Ita); Sara Sorribes Tormo (Spn) v WC-Daria Gavrilova (Aus).

JOHN CAIN ARENA

From 12pm: 7-Andrey Rublev (Rus) v Yannick Hanfmann (Ger); Coco Gauff (US) v Jil Teichmann (Sui).

Not before 4pm: Tennys Sandgren (US) v 21-Alex de Minaur (Aus); WC-Destanee Aiava (Aus) v WC-Samantha Stosur (Aus).

1573 ARENA

From 11am: 11-Belinda Bencic (Sui) v Lauren Davis (US); Radu Albot (Mol) v 12-Roberto Bautista Agut (Spn); Jasmine Paolini (Ita) v 6-Karolina Pliskova (Cza); 24-Casper Ruud (Nor) v Jordan Thompson (Aus).

Not before 4pm: Olga Danilovic (Srb) v Q-Petra Martic (Cro).

OTHER AUSTRALIANS

Court 3, from 11am: WC-Astra Sharma v Nao Hibino (Jpn); WC-Alexei Popyrinv v 13-David Goffin (Bel). Court 3, not before 5pm: WC-Thanasi Kokkinakis  v Soonwoo Kwon (Kor). Court 7, from 11am: WC-Christoper O’Connell v Jan-Lennard Struff (Ger); WC-Arina Rodionova v Madison Brengle (US); WC-Li Tu (Aus) v Feliciano Lopez (Spn).  Court 8, from 11am: WC-Aleksandar Vukic v 19-Karen Khachanov (Rus).

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