The eyes of the nation are on Ash Barty who has started her latest Australian Open campaign in the form of her life.

She is Australia’s top ranked player for the first time in her career, following victory at the prestigious WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai in China last November.

The 15th-seed cruised through to the second round of the Australian Open under lights on Monday night, with a 6-2 6-2 victory over Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum.

The last Aussie to enter the Australian Open in the world’s top 15 was Sam Stosur in 2013.

The 22-year-old finished in the fourth round of the US Open in 2018 and is excited to be back in front of an Australian crowd.

“The support we get in Australia is phenomenal. It’s spine-tingling at times,” Barty said.

But the young star is not feeling any pressure from the Australian public.

“I think the only expectation I put on myself, is to do everything right and to put myself in a position to perform as best that I can.”

Barty’s form in the Australian summer so far is better than previous years. She chose to compete in the Hopman Cup in Perth instead of the usual Brisbane preparation, and it paid off—she won two out of three matches.

The Sydney International ended with a loss in the final for the Queenslander but she has some strong performances to draw on, including a straight sets victory over World No. 1 Simona Halep.

Other victims included world No. 12 Elise Mertens and world No. 9 Kiki Bertens

“I’m a different player than I was 12 months ago. I feel like I’m a much better player. I’m a more complete player,” Barty said.

By Keiran Deck