World number one Ashleigh Barty couldn’t hide her excitement at returning to court and playing in front of a full crowd for the first time in a year.
Barty was one of eight select players chosen to play in an Australian Open curtain-raiser in Adelaide billed as ‘A Day at the Drive’.
The Australian hasn’t played competitive tennis since February 2020 when the COVID pandemic struck, putting the tennis season into disarray.
Due to safety concerns, she opted not to defend her French Open title and skipped the U.S. Open amid travel and quarantine restrictions.
However, due to ATP rules which were brought in to protect players rankings through the disruptions, Barty remains World number one in the WTA rankings.
Her opponent, Simona Halep won the game in a third set tie-breaker, but it was clear that both players enjoyed being back on court again, with lots of camaraderie and laughs shared over the net.
With the result unimportant, Barty was thankful and reflective in her post-match comments.
“I’ve trained over the last few months but nothing can replicate what we just did out here today,” she said.
“There’s a little bit of execution that we’d like to get right, but I just enjoy it so much and that’s the most important thing.
“When you come back out on court and you love what you do, I’m just excited to get started.
“If its not good next week, it might be the week after, and if it not then, then I’ll eventually get another opportunity to just keep chipping away trying to do the best that I can everyday.
“But it is bloody good to be back!” Barty concluded.
Meanwhile World number two Halep, was complementary about the Barty game.
“Ash doesn’t look like she didn’t play last year, so well done,” Halep said in her post-match interview.
“It’s always going to be a great fight when I play against her.”
For more exclusive content from Tennisbuzz, including news, features, trivia, promotions and more, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter below or via our home page.
Why not test your tennis knowledge by tackling one of our fiendish quizzes too?