At the Age of 15 Ashleigh won the Wimbledon Girls' Championships of 2011. In 2013 she became one of the most successful WTA deubtants in histroy by reaching the doubles finals of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open with Casey Dellacqua in the same year. In the second half of 2014 she decided to take a break from tennis and switched to cricket in 2015. 2016 Ashleigh resumed to tennis and finished her first top 20 season in 2017. In June 2019 she won her first Grand Slam title at the French Open in Paris. With her tournament victory two weeks later in Birmingham, she became the World No.1 for the first time.
How did Ashleigh Barty Become the Best?
Australia’s Ash Barty seems to be good at everything in sport, but she has had her setbacks, from which she is always willing to learn.
Is there anything Ash Barty can’t do with a ball?
Ace amateur golfer who plays off a handicap of five? Yes. Professional cricketer? Yes. Major tennis champion and world No 1?
The multi-talented top-ranked Australian was born in 1996 in Ipswich, a town close to Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. Her older sisters, Ali and Sara, played netball but Ash fell in love with tennis from the day she was introduced to the game at the age of five by her parents, Rob and Josie.
Barty’s talent was quickly spotted by coach Jim Joyce at the Brisbane Tennis Centre. But because of the costs involved in playing the sport at a high level, Barty’s parents had to make a tough choice.
‘When Ash first started playing tennis, we were playing netball,’ her sisters wrote in a piece for Athlete’s Voice. ‘But it got to the point where mum and dad said, “You guys get to play tennis or nothing, because we can’t get to all the places with three children and two sports.”
‘So we started playing tennis as well, which was fine. We were actually quite happy going to tennis and ended up really loving it. We’re a close family and there was never any resentment; that’s never been something that’s ever crossed our minds.’
It’s something Ash Barty has repeatedly said she will be forever grateful for. Under the guidance of Joyce, Barty became one of the most promising junior players in Australia.
Success came quickly. Having grown up in tropical Queensland, Barty first played on a grass court when she was 12 years old. Three years later, she won the girls’ singles title at Wimbledon. It was a victory she will never forget. ‘I think just all of the experiences that I gained from that week, it was such a whirlwind and such a blur, and for me, it was my first taste of what it was really like,’ she told Wimbledon.com in 2019. ‘I remember it like it was yesterday.’
By the time she was 18, Barty was already a three-time major doubles finalist. But the gruelling schedule of life on tour and the constant pressure of chasing ranking points and prize money round the globe took its toll on the teenager, who struggled to cope with the pressure and was often homesick.
After a first-round defeat at the 2014 US Open, a burnt out Barty announced she would be taking an indefinite break from the game. The next year, she reconnected with an old love from her youth: cricket. Barty joined the Brisbane Heat women’s cricket team and competed in the inaugural 2015-16 Women’s Big Bash League.
The break stunned many in tennis, but it was necessary for Barty to take a step back. ‘Ash was sad all the time,’ her father Rob Barty told a webinar organised by the ActiveSG/Voyager Tennis Academy in Australia in May 2020. ‘She was not herself on the court. I said to my wife we just had to make sure Ashleigh was happy. Her happiness was more important.
‘To see Ash happy and see her around her sisters and having fun again was so much better than having her miserable and going out and playing tennis.’ Although Barty excelled on the cricket pitch, tennis still beckoned.
By 2016, she decided to make a comeback, and this time, there was no stopping the young Australian. Now working with Australian coach Craig Tyzzer, Barty cracked the top 20 in 2017. A breakthrough season followed in 2019, when Barty won her first major at Roland-Garros, clinched three other titles, including the season-ending WTA Finals, and finished the season as the world No 1. Not bad for a player who returned to the Tour in 2016 with a ranking of 623
Barty celebrated her straight-sets win over Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova in the French Open final with dinner in Paris and a couple of rounds of golf on British soil shortly before the grass-court season.
Just like her idol and fellow Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Barty is now both a Grand Slam singles champion and a world No. 1. ‘Evonne has been an incredible champion of our sport, she is the most genuine human being you’ll ever meet and even to be mentioned in the same conversation as her is a little bit mind-boggling to me,’ Barty told CNN Online last year.
‘She has been an inspiration of mine, a mentor of mine, and a friend of mine, and anything that even goes close to what she achieved in her career would be unbelievable.’
Barty had started 2020 well, winning the title in Adelaide and reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open. But she was getting ready to play in Indian Wells, California, when all tennis was suspended in March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
During lockdown, Barty spent quality time with her family, her partner, Garry Kissick, a trainee professional golfer, and their dogs at home in Queensland. She also managed to improve her golf handicap from 10 to five.
“I try and get out a couple [of times a week] if I can,’ Barty told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper in May 2020. “It has kept me focused.”
Barty, whose sister Sara is a midwife and whose mother Josie works in radiology, also teamed up with former major winner and fellow Queenslander Pat Rafter to play helipad tennis at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital as a special thank you for frontline workers. She also visited the hospital’s Covid-19 ward.
Although Barty was sad not to be able to defend her title on the clay courts of Roland-Garros, the enforced break allowed her to gain new insights. ‘It was a little bit weird being at home,’ she said, ‘but in a way it was refreshing to be forced to put rackets down. For me it was nice to have that perspective where no one was in any rush. It was out of our control. We really had to take stock for a minute.’
WORDS BY DANIELLE ROSSINGH