Australia’s world No.1 Ash Barty says her tennis comeback was a sheer thrill, despite losing to rival Simona Halep in an exhibition match in Adelaide.
Barty, who hadn’t played a competitive match in 11 months, won the first set 6-3 and world No.2 Halep took the second 6-1 at Memorial Drive on Friday night.
The decorated duo then played a super tiebreaker which Halep, who was only released from 14-day quarantine on Friday morning, won 10-8.
While Barty bemoaned a lack of touch, she summed up her feelings succinctly: “It’s bloody good to be back.
“I genuinely missed it so much.
“I have been getting a little bit impatient the last two or three months, getting ready to play.”
Barty described the exhibition before about 4000 spectators as perfect preparation for her official return at a WTA Tour 500 event in Melbourne next week, ahead of the Australian Open starting on February 8.
“I’m so excited to get started next week,” she said.
“It’s pretty amazing to think of where we have been the last 12 months and to now have a near-full crowd here is remarkable.
“I have trained over the last few months but nothing can replicate what we just did.
“A little bit of execution, of course, that we would like to get right.
“But I just enjoyed it so much. I think that is the most important thing … we love what we do and I’m excited to get started.”
In the afternoon’s women’s exhibition, Serena Williams marked her release from quarantine with a victory against Naomi Osaka.
Williams took the first set 6-2 before the reigning US Open champion hit back to take the second by the same scoreline.
The duo then played a super tiebreaker with Williams prevailing 10-7.
Williams, Osaka and Halep were among the stars who had spent the past two weeks in quarantine at an Adelaide hotel.
Williams, at a brief pre-match media call, said she had been crossing off the 14 days of quarantine on a calendar, having spent the time with her three-year-old daughter Olympia.
“We went to the zoo,” Williams said when asked how she celebrated the end of quarantine.
“I am so glad it’s over because to be in a room with a three-year-old and being her best friend is definitely difficult, especially after training and working out.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t trade anything. Spending hours and hours and hours with her was really fun.”