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Adelaide International: Ashleigh Barty beats Coco Gauff on her comeback

Adelaide, Jan 5 (IANS) World number one Ashleigh Barty shook off the rust and marked her return to the court with a fighting win against American teenager Coco Gauff to reach the quarterfinals of Adelaide International, here on Wednesday.

The Australian was playing her first match in four months, having not competed since losing to Shelby Rogers in the third round of the US Open in September after ending her 2021 season early because of quarantine rules.

The 25-year-old Barty trailed 17-year old Gauff 6-4, 4-2 and was a point away from a 5-2 double-break deficit in the second set, but located her forehand in the nick of time to reel off 11 of the last 13 games. She levelled before dominating the deciding set to seal a 4-6 7-5 6-1 win.

The 2020 champion in Adelaide, will continue her quest for a third home-soil trophy against either No6 seed Sofia Kenin or compatriot Ajla Tomljanovic in the quarterfinals.

"In the first set, I was able to create opportunities but just was a little bit slack on the execution, rusty in the sense of stringing quality points together. I felt like I would play two or three good ones and then give away two or three cheapies quite quickly, which comes with match practice," said Barty after the match.

"Midway through the second set I was able to find my rhythm a little bit better on serve and just continued to be aggressive on my forehand. I just found execution a little bit more. Serving, getting a little bit better, getting a few more cheapies, allowed me to play with a little bit more freedom towards the end of the second set and the start of the third.

"I think it was all in all a good progression. Work to do, without a doubt, but very happy with the level that we started the year with," she added.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Barty is also the favourite to win the Australian Open, which starts in Melbourne on January 17, and will be looking to become the first home player to win the Grand Slam since 1978.