World number one Ashleigh Barty crashed out of the WTA tournament in Toronto on Tuesday, falling in three sets in her second-round opener to 29th-ranked American Sofia Kenin.
Australia’s Barty, the French Open champion who was competing for the first time since a fourth-round exit at Wimbledon, battled back from an early break to take the opening set, but she was unable to do the same in the next two sets as 20-year-old Kenin triumphed 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-4.
“It just wasn’t there today,” Barty said. “I think a little bit of rust, but I think just in general it was just a bit loose.
“I think at times I was missing by big margins, which is not something that I’m very used to or comfortable with.
“It’s not panic stations,” she added, confident that she can get things together before the US Open begins.
“It’s my first match on hard court in a long time.” Kenin, who has climbed the rankings this season with wins in Charleston and Mallorca and a runner-up finish in Acapulco, notched her first victory over a top-five player in her fourth attempt.
She needed four match points to seal the victory, with Barty saving three on her own serve in the ninth game of the final set.
Kenin, who had seen Barty pull back one of two service breaks in the set, then calmly served it out, giving herself a fourth match point with a forehand winner and lifting her arms in triumph as Barty fired a forehand long.
The defeat puts Barty’s number one ranking in jeopardy, with both Japan’s Naomi Osaka and Czech Karolina Pliskova eyeing the top spot.
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Second-seeded Osaka will open her campaign on Wednesday against Germany’s Tatjana Maria, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over China’s Zheng Saisai.
Pliskova, seeded third, will face US qualifier Alison Riske, who saved three match points on the way to a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (9/7) victory over Greece’s Maria Sakkari.
“It’s not something I focus about or worry about,” Barty said of the ranking.
“I came here and tried to do my best and it wasn’t enough today.”
Trailing 3-5 after an early break in the first set, Barty won three straight games before Kenin held to force the tiebreaker.
Barty opened a 5-1 lead in the decider and pocketed the set on her third set point. Kenin raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set, and after Barty regained two breaks to narrow the gap to 3-4, Kenin broke again for a 5-3 lead then held at love to force the third.
Kenin again seized the initiative, taking a 4-1 lead with two breaks of serve — Barty able to claw only one of them back.
Kenin posted a first win over Barty after three prior losses to the Australian. That included the Aussie’s two wins this year over Kenin, one in the round of 16 at Roland Garros.
In the third round, Kenin will face either Victoria Azarenka or Dayana Yastremska. Former world number one Azarenka, of Belarus, reached the second round with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Camila Giorgi.
In other first-round action, Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro ousted Venus Williams 6-4, 6-2.
Suarez earned her first win in four years over the US veteran, ending a streak of five straight defeats.