LONDON: Women's top seed Ash Barty cleared a tricky opening Wimbledon hurdle as she beat Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1 6-7(1) 6-1 on Tuesday in a first-round match tailor-made for tennis purists.
The Australian, sporting a 1970s-inspired outfit paying homage to compatriot Evonne Goolagong's trailblazing first Wimbledon title 50 years ago, played beautifully for two sets in her first grasscourt match for two years.
But Spaniard Suarez Navarro, who in April announced she had been given the all-clear following treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer, played a full part in an absorbing spectacle under the Centre Court's sliding roof.
Wimbledon king Roger Federer was scheduled next and the game's ultimate stylist would have approved of the eye-catching rallies constructed by Barty and her spirited opponent.
Barty used her all-court game, full of all manner of spins and angles, to great effect as she started and finished the match in dominant fashion.
But Suarez Navarro provided flashes of her signature single-handed backhand to help her push Barty to a deciding set after the Australian wavered when serving for the match at 5-4.
Suarez Navarro's lack of matches - her French Open first-round defeat was her only other appearance this year - caught up with her in the end as Barty raced away to victory.
But the former world number six, who will end her career at the Tokyo Olympics, received a standing ovation as she departed the Centre Court for the last time with Barty leading the applause for the popular 32-year-old Spaniard.
"She's a fighter, a great competitor and she will be sorely missed," Barty, who showed no sign of the hip injury that forced her to retire hurt at the French Open, said on court.
The opening match on day two of the Championships is traditionally reserved for the defending champion but with Simona Halep out injured, Barty was given the honour.
She did not disappoint as she began her quest to emulate Goolagong, who like herself has indigenous Australian heritage.