New No. 1 Barty’s rapid rise could be just a start

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By HOWARD FENDRICH AP Ten­nis Writer

Ash Barty never had been ranked in­side the WTA’s top 10 un­til April. As of Mon­day, she is No. 1.

The 23-year-old Aus­tralian never had been as far as the quar­ter­fi­nals at any Grand Slam tour­na­ment un­til Jan­uary. As of this month, she is the French Open cham­pion — and as of next week, she’ll be among the fa­vorites to win Wim­ble­don.

“It’s been a whirl­wind few weeks for me,” Barty said. “A whirl­wind year.”

Sure has. Given the skills and all-court ca­pa­bil­ity she’s dis­played, along with the strong head on her shoul­ders thanks in part to a hia­tus from the ten­nis tour while play­ing pro­fes­sional cricket, there is lit­tle rea­son to think this rapid rise will be any­thing but the start of a long run for Barty.

She will head to the All Eng­land Club — where she ex­ited in the third round a year ago — on a 12-match win­ning streak, af­ter fol­low­ing up her break­through cham­pi­onship at Roland Gar­ros on June 8 with a ti­tle Sun­day at the grass-court tuneup tour­na­ment in Birm­ing­ham, Eng­land, where she didn’t drop a set.

That as­sured Barty of over­tak­ing Naomi Osaka, the reign­ing cham­pion at the U.S. Open and Aus­tralian Open, atop the WTA rank­ings.

“You al­ways dream of it as a lit­tle kid, but for it to be­come a re­al­ity is in­cred­i­ble,” Barty said about get­ting to No. 1, some­thing only 26 other women have done since computer rank­ings were in­tro­duced in 1973. “This year, we were aim­ing for top 10, and now to be where we are is a tes­ta­ment to all of the peo­ple around me.”

Barty be­gan 2019 at No. 15 and with one fourth-round show­ing in her 17 ap­pear­ances in sin­gles at ma­jor tour­na­ments. Look at what she’s done so far this sea­son: tourhigh 36 wins (in 41 matches), tour-high three ti­tles (each on a dif­fer­ent sur­face), de­but Grand Slam quar­ter­fi­nal at the Aus­tralian Open, then the tro­phy in Paris.

It was al­most ex­actly three years ago that Barty re­turned to ten­nis, with­out a rank­ing at all, af­ter a 1½-year ab­sence be­cause she needed time away from the grind of the tour. She stepped away at age 18, briefly switch­ing sports to join a cricket team in Aus­tralia.

Her abil­ity to play ten­nis was never an is­sue; she was, af­ter all, a ju­nior cham­pion at Wim­ble­don in 2011, and reached three Grand Slam dou­bles fi­nals.

“She was just over­whelmed with ev­ery­thing. She was so young. Ex­pec­ta­tions were high on her back then. And she wasn’t han­dling that stuff very well. So it was the best thing she ever did, was step away from the sport and just re­assess her life and see what she wanted to do,” her coach, Craig Tyzzer, said the day Barty won the French Open. “For some­one to be able to walk back in and play ten­nis at the level she’s been able to do in three years is pretty amaz­ing. And she’s grown in that time, as well. The growth is con­tin­u­ing. It’ll still be on­go­ing.”

Away from the court, that in­cludes Barty’s work with Ben Crowe, a per­for­mance coach who helps her with the men­tal side of things.

“I have be­come a bet­ter per­son,” Barty said, “and with that, I’ve be­come a bet­ter ten­nis player, as well.”

On the court, Tyzzer helps Barty in a con­stant search for im­prove­ment and va­ri­ety. Her slice back­hand, big serve and fore­hand and strong net game are all part of a for­mula that give her a chance to win, no mat­ter the sur­face or the op­po­nent.

The con­fi­dence with which Barty is play­ing now is a big fac­tor in her cur­rent form, too. One that there shouldn’t be any rea­son to doubt will con­tinue.


Aus­tralia’s Ash­ley Barty re­acts af­ter beat­ing Ger­many’s Ju­lia Go­erges dur­ing the fi­nal match of the Na­ture Val­ley Clas­sic at Edg­bas­ton Pri­ory Club in Birm­ing­ham, Eng­land, Sun­day June 23, 2019.

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