Ash Barty wobbles before reaching 3rd round in Australia

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MELBOURNE, Australia — No. 1-ranked Ashleigh Barty carries the hopes of her homeland at the Australian Open, which may be why she stumbled before closing out a second-round win Thursday.

Barty blew a big lead in the second set and survived a shaky tiebreaker to beat fellow Aussie Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 7-6 (7).

Barty is trying to become the first Australian to win the women’s title at Melbourne since Chris O’Neil in 1978.

“It’s a different challenge every single day,” Barty said. “It’s trying to be the best I can every single day, whatever that level is.”

Other winners included former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova and American Shelby Rogers.

Feliciano Lopez, at 39 the oldest player in the men’s draw, rallied past No. 31 Lorenzo Sonego 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Lopez is appearing at his 75th consecutive Grand Slam singles event, a men’s record.

Barty lost only 10 points in the opening round, and her match against Gavrilova was equally lopsided until the wobbly finish. She led 5-2 in the second set but was broken twice serving for the victory.

In the tiebreaker Barty lost several ugly points. Gavrilova, a wild card, failed to convert two set points and committed unforced errors to end the final three rallies.

The two friends then shared a hug at the net.

“When you play another Aussie, rankings go out the window, experience goes out the window,” Barty said. “Typically you know each other so well. It’s always going to be a tricky match.”

Rogers reached the third round at the Australian Open for the first time by beating Olga Danilovic 6-2, 6-3. Rogers, 28, came into the tournament with a career record of 1-4 in Melbourne, but her ranking and fortunes have been on the rise of late.

She reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open for the first time last September, and her year-end ranking was a career-best No. 58. Rogers was sidelined for 14 months by a knee injury sustained in early 2018, and her ranking at the end of that year was 780th.

She had little trouble with Danilovic, a qualifier from Serbia ranked 183rd. The small crowd on Court 3 included Novak Djokovic, who sat behind the baseline shouting encourage to his fellow Serb.

Pliskova, seeded sixth, advanced by beating American Danielle Collins 7-5, 6-2. Pliskova lost serve twice in a seesaw first set but pulled it out and then pulled away to beat Collins, a 2019 semifinalist at Melbourne Park.

Pliskova has won 65 matches in Grand Slams but is still seeking her first major title. She was runner-up to Angelique Kerber at the 2016 U.S. Open.

No. 11 Belinda Bencic outlasted Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, and No. 18 Elise Mertens defeated Zhu Lin 7-6 (8), 6-1.

In men’s play, No. 7 Andrey Rublev swept Thiago Monteiro 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (8).