Ash Barty. Image Credit: AP Photo

Brisbane: World No. 1 Ash Barty’s new year started with an upset loss to American qualifier Jennifer Brady at the Brisbane International.

The 53rd-ranked Brady, who has no WTA tournament titles, beat French Open champion Barty on her home court at Pat Rafter Arena 6-4, 7-6 on Thursday.

It’s been quite a week already for Brady, who went through three rounds in qualifying and then wildcard entry Maria Sharapova in the first round. Barty was coming off a first-round bye.

It’s the first time in three matches the 24-year-old Brady has defeated Barty.

Brady’s baseline game was crucial to the win, swinging hard throughout and never letting a rusty Barty break her rhythm.

“I think just going out there and knowing that I can win, playing to win instead of just playing to just hang in there or try and just hold my own,” Brady said. “I think just believing in myself, having the confidence in the game, knowing that I am a player who is able to dictate.

“And if I’m able to do that and giving myself the best opportunity at winning — and win or lose knowing that I played within myself and believed in myself, I think I’ll walk off the court pretty happy.”

The 23-year-old Barty will continue playing doubles in Brisbane and is in the field for next week’s Adelaide International before starting her Australian Open campaign.

“It’s rare in sport that you get an opportunity every single week and so quickly … that’s one of the beautiful things about tennis is that next week you get a chance in Adelaide to kind of come out there and try and execute that little bit better,” Barty said.

In later matches on Thursday, defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka was playing American Sofia Kenin and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was set to take on Ludmilla Samsonova.

Top-seeded Serena Williams had her toughest workout of 2020 before beating fellow American Christina McHale 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the quarter-finals of the Auckland Classic.

Serena dropped a set for the first time in singles or doubles this year and at times on Thursday appeared to be fully stretched by the 88th-ranked McHale before finding the edge to win in just over two hours.

“It was a good match for me,” Serena said. “I really need to play matches like that to get to my goal. Match time is good, but I’m just glad to still be out here after losing that first set.”

Serena previously beat Camila Giorgi 6-3, 6-2 in singles and combined with Caroline Wozniacki in the doubles to beat Nao Hibino and Mikoto Ninomiya 6-2, 6-4 and then Caroline Dolehide and Johanna Larsson 6-2, 6-1 to reach the semi-finals.

American teenager Coco Gauff was beaten 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 by Germany’s Laura Siegemund.