By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - An Australian summer of tennis that promised so much for Ash Barty has ended in disappointment with the local hero falling at the first hurdle of the Adelaide International a week after blowing a golden chance to win her home Grand Slam.
World number one Barty exited Memorial Drive on Wednesday after a 6-3 6-4 loss to Danielle Collins and took a defensive swipe at the Australian public for having unrealistic expectations of her.
"You know that there are no easy matches going into any tournament," Barty told local media.
"From an expectation of a public point of view, I think that (winning all the time) is their views and that's their opinions and they are 100% able to voice those.
"But I think from a playing perspective, it's about what do we expect from us as players and what do we bring to the court each day.
"And in the end, the result, it just is what it is, it's not always going to go your way. You can't win every single tennis match. But you can sure as hell approach it the right way."
Barty pulled out of her next planned stop in Qatar with a left leg injury, organisers said on Wednesday, but the Queenslander did not offer that as an excuse for losing to Collins.
Having led 3-1 in the first set and 4-1 in the second, Barty did offer a surprising explanation for losing to the American, who she beat in all three of their previous matches.
"The court was exceptionally quick, probably the quickest I have ever played in Australia, and it took some time to adjust," said Barty, who was given a wildcard into the tournament and gifted a first round bye.
"Danielle was able to control the centre of the court, control the baseline and hold court position.
"And on a very quick court that is vital and she was able to get first strike in on most occasions."
Australians had high hopes Barty would end their 43-year wait for a home winner at Melbourne Park after she beat Garbine Muguruza in the final of the Yarra Valley Classic warm-up.
But despite being in the comparatively weaker half of the draw Barty was dumped out in the quarter-finals, ousted by Karolina Muchova after taking the first set 6-1.
While Naomi Osaka picked up her fourth Grand Slam title with victory at Melbourne Park, the 23-year-old remains second behind Barty in the world rankings due to a re-jig by the WTA after the 2020 season was suspended amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barty has held the world number one ranking since September 2019, a period in which she has made one Grand Slam semi-final and skipped the French and U.S. Opens.
Tennis fans and pundits have criticised the rankings for being out of synch with reality.
Barty said in Adelaide she had not decided where she would next compete for points, though her statement about the Qatar Open indicated she was looking forward to competing at Miami next month.
"I will have that discussion with my team in the next day or so to work out as best we can what we will do moving forward," said the 24-year-old.
"Obviously it's an ever-changing world that we're living in now."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)