Ashleigh Barty’s world No.1 ranking is in jeopardy after the Australian was a shock casualty in the second round of the Canadian Open.
Barty fell to Sofia Kenin 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4 in Toronto in just under two hours on Wednesday, marking the American’s first victory over a top-five WTA player.
Barty, playing for the first time since losing in the fourth round at Wimbledon a month ago, enjoyed a bye in the opening round and struggled to find her rhythm on her return to the circuit.
“I think it was a little rust but I think just in general it was just a bit loose,” Barty told the WTA.
“At times I was missing by big margins, which is not something that I’m used to or comfortable with but it’s not panic stations.
“It’s my first match on hardcourt in a long time.”
Barty took the first set against Kenin after racing out to a 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker.
But Kenin then took control of proceedings in the second, carving out a 4-0 lead before stifling a three-game Barty comeback to take the match to a third set.
World No.29 Kenin nearly squandered a 4-1 cushion in the decider but held her nerve and closed out the match when a misfiring Barty sent a routine forehand long.
“It’s very different conditions here and different coming from home, training in winter at the moment, where the ball is a little lower and here it’s quite lively and quick off the racquet,” Barty said.
“All in all, I didn’t adjust well enough or quick enough to the conditions how I needed to.”
The defeat means Barty will lose the No.1 ranking if Japan’s Naomi Osaka wins her second-round match against German qualifier Tatjana Maria.
Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova also has the chance to take the top ranking this week but must reach the semi-finals to have any hope.
Australian Ajla Tomljanovic retired 22 minutes into her opening round clash, trailing Polish ace Iga Swiatek 4-1 in the first set.
In other first-round action, Barty’s doubles partner, former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka, beat Camila Giorgi 6-2 6-2 but seven-time grand slam champion Venus Williams suffered a 6-4 6-2 loss to Spaniard Carla Suarez-Navarro.