Comeback kid Ash Barty showed there was plenty of life in her second tennis coming on Wednesday night as she delivered a major scare to Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber at the Brisbane International.
The German world No.1 was forced to dig deep to survive a second-round fright at Pat Rafter Arena, eventually winning 6-3 2-6 6-3 in one hour 44 minutes, after being on the ropes.
Barty defied her world ranking of 271 to rip through the second set in 33 minutes and have all the momentum in front of a raucous crowd.
A state Twenty20 cricketer just 12 months ago with the Brisbane Heat, she slugged it out with the dual grand slam champion and made her look second-rate in the one-sided second set.
But Kerber lifted in the decider, breaking the local favourite immediately and then keeping her foot on the throat to book a quarter-final encounter with sixth-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.
While disappointed at the result but pleased with her display, Barty promises to propel herself back into the top 100, and lower, in quick time with her freewheeling style of play.
She hit winners from all parts of the court and it was just her consistency which let herself down at times during the first and third sets, as well as Kerber’s superior movement.
The 2011 Wimbledon junior champion only returned to the sport last autumn after a two-year break as she fought loneliness and depression as a teenager on the tour.
Rediscovering her love of the game under new coach Craig Tyzzer has put the 20-year-old back on the path to being one of the country’s best players on the WTA.
Doubles partner Casey Dellacqua rated Barty the most talented Australian woman to emerge in the past decade and on her Brisbane form she showed she can also do damage as a wildcard at the Australian Open in less than a fortnight.