Infotainment Factory: How 'normal chick' stunned world No.1

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Wednesday, 9 January 2019

How 'normal chick' stunned world No.1


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Ash Barty likes to describe her lengthy sabbatical from tennis as the chance to be “a normal chick”, yet a rare talent continues to flourish in its second coming.

Barty's latest and biggest career win came in Sydney on Wednesday against an undercooked world No.1 Simona Halep, although it is not only on the scoreboard that there is an awful lot to like.

The Queenslander will be the top-ranked Australian in either singles draw at Melbourne Park and shares not just a relatively diminutive physical stature with local mens’ No.1 Alex De Minaur, but also an unyielding determination, fiercely competitive nature and spotless public image.

Barty, who will next week carry the protection of a top-16 seeding into a grand slam for the first time, plays with the creative all-court flair of her idol Evonne Goolagong Cawley and a spirit reminiscent of great Australians past, when sportsmanship was as abundant as silverware spilling from trophy cabinets.

“I think we’re all just trying to emulate what legends before have done - done for us, done for the sport - and I think from my point of view it’s to emulate Evonne as much as possible,’’ Barty tells Wide World of Sports

“Evonne’s been such an amazing ambassador for tennis in general, and for indigenous tennis, and paving the way for everyone to follow, so I’m doing the best I can to do that. But I think Australian tennis in general is heading to a very good place.’’

And with Barty, the winner of the women’s 2018 US Open Sportsmanship Award, at its forefront. Indeed, the girl who cried every night on her first tour overseas has grown into a young woman comfortable and assured in both her own skin and her place in the game.

Much else remains the same, however, and the 22-year-old’s original coach at the West Brisbane Tennis Club, the venerable Jim Joyce, describes her as “a real Aussie and a real Queenslander”; one who enjoys the occasional cold beer at the end of a hot day and dangling a fishing rod in quiet waters on a lazy weekend.

Indeed, the demands of life on the road were part of what drove Barty - who was a shy 15-year-old when she won the 2011 Wimbledon girls’ title - from the sport back in 2014. As she struggled to handle all that came with her remarkable early success, the long months on tour took a mental and emotional toll on the dog-loving homebody from Ipswich who found comfort and friendship in cricket while gradually rekindling her love affair with tennis.

How long ago that all seems now. Barty has surrounded herself with a close-knit team headed by genial Victorian coach Craig Tyzzer, won two more career titles in 2018 including the WTA Elite Trophy, shared her first doubles major at the US Open with American CoCo Vandeweghe and also, at Flushing Meadows, reached the fourth round in singles for the first time. The third, in 2017-18, is as far as she has gone at Melbourne Park.

For Goolagong Cawley, the last of her four Australian Open titles came in 1977 - which, incidentally, was 12 months before Chris O’Neil’s four-decade-long reign as the most recent home-grown national champion began. Barty proudly shares an indigenous heritage and fine backhand slice with her idol; results like Wednesday's are fuelling the optimism that a new-generation but marvellously old-school Australian’s name might one day be engraved on the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy as well.

Ash Barty likes to describe her lengthy sabbatical from tennis as the chance to be “a normal chick”, yet a rare talent continues to flourish in its second coming.

Barty's latest and biggest career win came in Sydney on Wednesday against an undercooked world No.1 Simona Halep, although it is not only on the scoreboard that there is an awful lot to like.

The Queenslander will be the top-ranked Australian in either singles draw at Melbourne Park and shares not just a relatively diminutive physical stature with local mens’ No.1 Alex De Minaur, but also an unyielding determination, fiercely competitive nature and spotless public image.

Barty, who will next week carry the protection of a top-16 seeding into a grand slam for the first time, plays with the creative all-court flair of her idol Evonne Goolagong Cawley and a spirit reminiscent of great Australians past, when sportsmanship was as abundant as silverware spilling from trophy cabinets.

“I think we’re all just trying to emulate what legends before have done - done for us, done for the sport - and I think from my point of view it’s to emulate Evonne as much as possible,’’ Barty tells Wide World of Sports

“Evonne’s been such an amazing ambassador for tennis in general, and for indigenous tennis, and paving the way for everyone to follow, so I’m doing the best I can to do that. But I think Australian tennis in general is heading to a very good place.’’

And with Barty, the winner of the women’s 2018 US Open Sportsmanship Award, at its forefront. Indeed, the girl who cried every night on her first tour overseas has grown into a young woman comfortable and assured in both her own skin and her place in the game.

Much else remains the same, however, and the 22-year-old’s original coach at the West Brisbane Tennis Club, the venerable Jim Joyce, describes her as “a real Aussie and a real Queenslander”; one who enjoys the occasional cold beer at the end of a hot day and dangling a fishing rod in quiet waters on a lazy weekend.

Indeed, the demands of life on the road were part of what drove Barty - who was a shy 15-year-old when she won the 2011 Wimbledon girls’ title - from the sport back in 2014. As she struggled to handle all that came with her remarkable early success, the long months on tour took a mental and emotional toll on the dog-loving homebody from Ipswich who found comfort and friendship in cricket while gradually rekindling her love affair with tennis.

How long ago that all seems now. Barty has surrounded herself with a close-knit team headed by genial Victorian coach Craig Tyzzer, won two more career titles in 2018 including the WTA Elite Trophy, shared her first doubles major at the US Open with American CoCo Vandeweghe and also, at Flushing Meadows, reached the fourth round in singles for the first time. The third, in 2017-18, is as far as she has gone at Melbourne Park.

For Goolagong Cawley, the last of her four Australian Open titles came in 1977 - which, incidentally, was 12 months before Chris O’Neil’s four-decade-long reign as the most recent home-grown national champion began. Barty proudly shares an indigenous heritage and fine backhand slice with her idol; results like Wednesday's are fuelling the optimism that a new-generation but marvellously old-school Australian’s name might one day be engraved on the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy as well.

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