Ashleigh Barty breathed a big sigh of relief after surviving a scare and progressing to the second round of the US Open in New York.
Australia’s world No.2 had to pull out all the stops before battling past dogged Kazakh Zarina Diyas 1-6 6-3 6-2 on day one.
Barty used her trusty trademark serve to drag herself out of a deep hole and set up a date on Wednesday with unseeded American Lauren Davis.
“I just had to start with my serve,” the French Open champion said after finishing with eight aces in the three-set escape.
“I really wasn’t giving myself enough chances on serve. I don’t know what the percentage was in the first set … but it wasn’t good.
“(Had to) go back to the basics, start again and try to figure it out.”
Opening tournament proceedings on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Barty made a terrible start, falling behind 5-0 in 20 minutes after struggling to find her rhythm.
After 19 unforced errors, Australia’s big title hope found herself down a set inside half an hour.
A furious Barty emerged a different player in the second set, bludgeoning a succession of winners to work her way back into the contest.
It took her eight games, though, to break down Diyas, ranked 77th in the world.
But once she did Barty sealed the second set with a signature ace down the middle to get back on level terms.
She gained two more breaks in the third set to advance after a tough one-hour, 42-minute work-out.
“Zarina was able to put it in difficult positions even off my slice,” Barty said.
“It was about trying to do it regularly and put her under pressure.”
Despite the shaky start, the 23-year-old said it was a thrill to return to Arthur Ashe Stadium following her breakthrough doubles triumph last year with CoCo Vandeweghe.
“It was a bit bizarre. We walked out here on practice the other day and some good memories came floating back,” Barty said.
“We are really pleased with the way we were able to solve this riddle today, figure it out and progress to the second round.”
Alex de Minaur also moved into the second round with a 6-4 6-2 6-7 (6-8) 7-5 win over Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert in four sets.
But fellow Australians Samantha Stosur, Daria Gavrilova and Priscilla Hon all fell at the first hurdle.
Champion in 2011, 35-year-old Stosur needed a wildcard into her 15th Open and bombed out 6-1 6-3 against Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Gavrilova, who continues to battle a foot injury, ended the 2019 grand slam season without a win following a 6-3 6-4 loss to Frenchwoman Fiona Ferro.
Hon, a lucky loser from qualifying, had to settle for a $US58,000 ($A85,500) pay day after succumbing 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 to Russian Margarita Gasparyan.
Nick Kyrgios, John Millman, Jordan Thompson, Alexei Popyrin, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Ajla Tomljanovic and Astra Sharma all open their campaigns on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST).
HOW THE AUSTRALIANS FARED ON DAY ONE OF THE US OPEN AT FLUSHING MEADOWS:
Women’s singles, first round
2-Ashleigh Barty beat Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 1-6 6-3 6-2
Daria Gavrilova lost to Fiona Ferro (FRA) 6-3 6-4
Samantha Stosur lost to Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-1 6-3
Priscilla Hon lost to Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) 7-6 (7-4) 6-4
Men’s singles, first round
Alex de Minaur bt Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) 6-4 6-2 6-7 (6-8) 7-5