Ashleigh Barty attributed her patchy performance Thursday over compatriot Daria Gavrilova to rust, as the world number one played down fears she was carrying an injury at the Australian Open.
The 24-year-old cast friendship aside to down her Fed Cup teammate 6-1, 7-6 (9/7) in one hour and 32 minutes, but Barty seemingly lost focus on the brink of victory in the all-Australian affair.
Barty, playing on Rod Laver Arena in muggy conditions, unexpectedly slumped at 5-2 in the second set, dropping serve twice, and needed to save two set points in the tiebreaker before finally advancing to the third round.
The 2019 French Open champion was unfazed by the stutter, having only resumed playing at the warm-up Yarra Valley Classic -- which she won -- after spending almost a year at home during the pandemic.
"I haven't played a lot of tennis over the last 12 months," she said. "Obviously going to have ebbs and flows not only in concentration but level of play as well.
"It's important to be able to bring that back as often as possible. For a couple games, I wasn't able to do that."
Barty's left thigh was heavily strapped but she appeared to move with ease against 387th-ranked Gavrilova, a wildcard entrant.
"The bandage is very big, but that's more just support so that the tape itself doesn't fall off," she said.
"I played a lot of matches in the last 10 days after not playing for 12 months. It's not affecting the way that I can play in any way.
"It's just more giving the leg some assistance to make sure it doesn't get to a point where it's going to affect me."
After the 2019 French Open champion's near-flawless 6-0, 6-0 first-round romp over Montenegro's Danka Kovinic, she was pushed by a gritty Gavrilova, her predecessor as Australia's number one.
"When you play another Aussie, rankings go out of the window, so it was always going to be a tricky match," said Barty, who has now won four of five matches against Gavrilova.
"We respect each other enough to play hard, play fair, then at the end of the day the result doesn't actually matter."
The top seed is on a mission to end Australia's 43-year singles title drought in Melbourne and better her semi-finals appearance at last year's Australian Open.
Barty next plays 29th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, who beat Czech Barbora Krejcikova in straight-sets.