Danka Kovinic, the first player to stand in the way of Ash Barty’s Australian Open dream, is exhilarated to land her nothing-to-lose opportunity against the home favourite.
The world No.77 from Montenegro, who’s making her fourth main-draw appearance at Melbourne Park, just hopes she’ll get the chance to make her debut appearance on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday.
Soon after Friday’s singles draw paired the 26-year-old Kovinic with the world No.1, she was quick to express her delight at landing a marquee first round match at the event she says is her favourite.
“I am excited for this one!” she tweeted. “Hopefully RLA debut.”
Kovinic ought really to provide little problem for Barty, even if there’s still just the slightest ring rust in the Australian’s first grand slam for a year.
But as Barty accepted on hearing the draw: “The depth in women’s tennis is exceptionally strong. There are certainly no easy matches.”
So she will still be wary of this aggressive baseliner who she’s never played before, even if the Montengrin, who prefers clay court combat, hasn’t kicked on the way she hoped since reaching her best ranking of 46 five years ago.
Last week, Kovinic earned her first win of the year in the Gippsland Trophy, one of the Melbourne warm-up events, against Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek before losing to Jelena Ostapenko, the former French Open champion, in straight sets.
Now she’ll be looking to reach the second round in the Open for the third time after being knocked out by Victoria Azarenka at that stage in 2016 and Timea Bacsinszky the following year.
Last year, Kovinic, who has been mentored on and off down the years by her tennis hero, former world No.1 and Australian Open semi-finalist Jelena Jankovic, could only win two games in an opening round drubbing by 16th seed Elise Mertens.
Barty will be hoping for a similarly straightforward passage.