Four months after lifting the Wimbledon trophy, 19-year-old Ashleigh Barty of Australia was denied the chance to add another crown.
Barty lost to Kristina Mladenovic of France 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 on Sunday in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, Calif. She was ranked No. 1 in the world after winning the Wimbledon title in July.
But Barty couldn’t replicate that success in her second tournament of the season. And this was a far tougher matchup than the one she faced against Venus Williams in Wimbledon. Barty had to do a better job taking Mladenovic’s serve, but she failed to do so in the end. The second-seeded Frenchwoman dominated in the tiebreakers to claim the win.
Mladenovic finished last season ranked No. 69, and she didn’t put up big numbers early against Barty, either. But she surged in the final set, which she dominated with seven service breaks.
“Once she got in a rhythm, I don’t think she blinked,” Barty said. “It was tough. You know, this is her first tournament back in almost nine months, so maybe she was a little bit fresher today than I was.”
When asked if the mental burden of No. 1 added any pressure in her debut at the tournament, Barty said: “There’s no question. It’s hard to come back from a lot of injuries, and I know that’s what she’s dealing with. I’m not the only player that’s had to come back from an injury, so this was a tough one for both of us.”
Here are three other things we learned from the Bank of the West Classic:
1. Justine Henin will coach Alize Cornet on the WTA Tour again. The 2006 US Open champion hung up her racket after a spotless 2009 season in which she finished No. 1 and captured her eighth French Open title.
But earlier this month, she teamed up with Cornet, a two-time WTA title winner. She had nearly retired from playing tennis last year when she fell on hard times and faced serious financial difficulties. When she was diagnosed with depression, which had led to her losing 18 pounds, Cornet approached Henin and asked her to coach her. The two paired up to win their first title at the Prague Open in January, and they will face each other at Indian Wells next week.
2. Sloane Stephens is showing no ill effects from a foot injury that knocked her out of the US Open last year and the Australian Open this year. On Sunday, the No. 3-ranked player in the world cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 win over Daniela Hantuchova.
Stephens, 22, was a disappointing fourth-round loser in her previous appearance in the Bank of the West Classic, in 2015. But she had an easy time with Hantuchova, ranked No. 63 in the world, who was penalized for taunting after being broken while serving at 4-1 in the third set. Hantuchova was assessed a code violation but did not lose a point as a result.
3. Not much is known about Agnieszka Radwanska. She comes from Poland, but the Bank of the West Classic didn’t know much about her at all.
The 23-year-old player from Warsaw, who plays left-handed, defeated seventh-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-3 in the first round. Radwanska was already in the top 10 after winning her fourth WTA title at the Bastad event in Sweden in February. This is her first appearance in this tournament, and she was able to enjoy a party atmosphere despite not having made it past the first round.
“I’m really happy to get this year off to such a good start and get to the quarterfinals,” Radwanska said. “Last year I didn’t get to the second round, and so this year I’m looking forward to the next match.”