World No 1 Ash Barty was plagued by unforced errors but displayed plenty of fight on her return to the WTA Tour, as she rallied from a set down to beat American Coco Gauff 4-6 7-5 6-1 at the Adelaide International on Wednesday.
Barty, the 2020 Adelaide champion, last played competitively at the US Open in September before heading home to Australia and appeared rusty at times in the contest before mounting a brilliant comeback to reach the quarterfinals.
A delicate drop shot from the baseline helped Gauff break for a 2-1 lead in the opening set and although the 17-year-old failed to build on the early advantage, she capitalized on a number of loose errors by Barty to close out the set.
Barty saved four breakpoints in the opening game of the next set before world number 22 Gauff sealed a break to go up 4-2 but the local favorite clawed her way back to force a decider.
She raced ahead 5-1 after a scrappy start to the final set and completed the victory with a powerful volley.
Earlier, world number 100 Kaja Juvan beat second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(6) 6-1 while Shelby Rogers knocked out Maria Sakkari 7-6(5) 2-6 6-4.
World No 2 Sabalenka, a semifinalist at last year’s Wimbledon and US Open, struggled on serve, making 18 double faults, and committed 49 unforced errors.
Juvan won a tight first set after trailing 2-0 and saved a set point at 6-5 in the tiebreak, before racing ahead 3-0 in the second to storm to victory in an hour and a half.
Rogers beat Sakkari in straight sets in the second round at Wimbledon last year and looked on course for a repeat, but lost seven straight games after being 2-0 up in the second set.
World No 6 Sakkari forced the decider but Rogers hit back to close out the win and set up a clash with seventh seed Elena Rybakina, who secured a 6-3 6-4 victory over Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova.