• Ash Barty hits a backhand during the 1st round match against Bernarda Pera of the US at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris. (EPA/CAROLINE BLUMBERG)Source: EPA/CAROLINE BLUMBERG
The World No. 1 fought off a hip injury and a tough Croatian opponent to win in three sets.
2 Jun 2021 - 9:56 AM  UPDATED 2 Jun 2021 - 9:56 AM

Ash Barty has put on a brave face while revealing a hip injury threatens her dream of regaining her French Open title, after she survived a first-round scare.

Australia's world No.1 endured a dramatic, injury-hit return to the scene of her greatest triumph at Roland Garros on Tuesday, needing a medical timeout for the "acute" problem following the second set before battling to a 6-4 3-6 6-2 win over the dangerous Bernarda Pera.

Back on Court Philippe Chatrier for the first time since winning the title there in 2019, Barty - who decided not to defend her title in pandemic-hit 2020 - told the small crowd that she'd managed to prevail because "I just keep fighting."

That battle will now have to go on for a fortnight if she's to grab back her title as the top seed revealed how the injury to her left hip, which flared up over the weekend, was going to make surviving the tournament difficult.

"It's going to be a little bit tough this week," said Barty, somehow summoning up a smile.

"(The injury) just needed some (timeout) today to try to release it off as best I could.

"We were able to fight through, able to give ourselves a chance to play again the next round.

"A massive part of today was accepting the fact that, yes, I may not be absolutely 100 per cent but I'm certainly good enough to go out there and fight and do the best I can and give myself a chance to win matches.

"I'm not going to hide behind the fact I'm not quite 100 per cent - but I can guarantee I'll go out there with the right attitude every day and give it a crack no matter what."

It says everything about Barty's character that after receiving treatment at courtside at the end of a second set in which she'd been buried by Pera's barrage of winners, she got up to subdue an inspired opponent.

The trainer had worked on her lower back, left hip and the top of her heavily-strapped left leg as she lay on the court but, once back up again, Barty rediscovered her best tennis just when it was needed.

The top seed saved two break points at 1-1 in the decider but after negotiating that minefield game, her superior all-court game finally began to tell as she reeled off the final four games to claim victory after two hours.

Barty had pulled out of the Italian Open with an old recurring arm injury but, at least, there was no sign of that as she booked a second round tie with Poland's Magda Linette.

"I was able to build up a bit more pressure in that third set but Bernarda played an incredible match," said Barty, who was constantly discomforted by her powerful, aggressive Croatian-born opponent who smacked a remarkable 36 winners.

The crushing forehand of the world No.70 made it difficult for Barty to assert any sort of control, even after she had taken the first set with three straight breaks of serve.

There were only 100 or so fans, to see Barty's victory - a far cry from the full house who saw her triumph in the final against Marketa Vondrousova over two years ago.

Not that the Queenslander minded.

"Yeah, a little bit different but the world is different, isn't it?" she smiled.

"Though it was only a sprinkling of fans, it was still really nice to be able to share that with them and enjoy being back out on that beautiful court which is very close to my heart."