Ashleigh Barty has set up a clash with world No.1 Angelique Kerber after making light work of her first-round Brisbane International opponent on Monday.
Wildcard Barty opened her 2017 campaign by defeating Serbian qualifier Aleksandra Krunic 6-2 6-2 in just 66 minutes at Pat Rafter Arena.
It means the 20-year-old will now face German Kerber in what shapes as the ultimate test of Barty’s professional tennis comeback.
Kerber lost last year’s final in Brisbane, but went on to win the Australian Open, US Open and collected an Olympic silver medal as she improved her world ranking by nine places.
Barty took a break from tennis in 2014, saying she fell out of love with the sport, and played cricket in the Women’s Big Bash League in 2015-16 for the Brisbane Heat.
She made a return to tennis last year but struggled with an arm injury, but is already the fifth-ranked Australian in the world, and had no issues in dispensing with Krunic, the world No.141.
“I have my best memories on this court,” Barty said.
“It was nice to blow out a few cobwebs and come out finally after a long year last year. It’s just so good.”
The centre-court clash was briefly interrupted by a heavy storm in Brisbane, which forced the other matches at the Queensland Tennis Centre to be suspended.
One of those featured 16-year-old qualifier Destanee Aiava, who looks set to become the second Australian to progress to the next round of the women’s draw.
Aiava was ahead 2-6 6-3 3-0 (40-15) against American Bethanie Mattek-Sands before rain stopped play.