There are few stories in world sport that are genuinely as intriguing as Ashleigh Barty’s. The 25-year-old Australian may have been flying somewhat under the radar before she arrived at SW19, but having claimed the title of 2021 Wimbledon Champion, that has all changed. Naturally, after one wins the most prestigious global tennis tournament in the world, the spotlight’s shine gets even brighter. In Barty’s case, there’s a beautiful story to uncover.
Indeed, the women’s world number one tennis player has had a turbulent relationship with the sport. Barty shocked the world in 2014 when she walked away from elite tennis, citing an indefinite hiatus, and transferred over to cricket, a sport in which she had no formal training. Partially, this move was prompted by Barty’s desire to be closer to her family and her cherished Australia. This is why she accepted a contract with Brisbane Heat in the Women’s Big Bash League in 2015.
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) July 10, 2021
In truth, it was a short-lived journey with Brisbane Heat and, in 2016, Barty announced that she intended on returning to the women’s professional tennis circuit. The time away from the game gave the 25-year-old a new sense of perspective and the hunger to start again and truly make a name for herself. Of course, it would mean Barty having to leave Australia to pursue a life on the road, but she has found ways of maintaining a connection with her home country, regardless of where she is.
For instance, Barty has stated that she wakes up in the early hours while touring in order to watch her beloved Richmond Tigers in the AFL. Richmond is presently at +1500 to win the Grand Final in the Aussie Rules betting so the team may not be playing at their best form at the moment, but it doesn’t really matter as win or lose, Barty could interact with family and friends during the match as if she was there in the same room. For the Australian homebody, this type of activity was a grounding exercise and allowed her to spend quality time with her loved ones whilst under the most extraordinary pressure on tour.
Ash Barty presents the premiership cup to the Richmond Tigers. 🏆🏆🏆
What a season. pic.twitter.com/Fh1c3U6XZU
— 7AFL (@7AFL) October 24, 2020
In retrospect, it’s fair to say that those coping mechanisms to keep any sort of homesickness at bay have paid off. After all, the all-court player has achieved a lot since her meteoric return to professional tennis. This was evidenced by her performance at the 2019 French Open when Barty won her first Grand Slam in Paris. It was clear that the Aussie had begun to plant her country’s flag on the courts of the most prestigious events.
Just two years later, Barty was at it again when she blew away all the competition to win Wimbledon. With two Grand Slams in five years, it’s clear there are no more worries about being away from home: Barty is thriving on the road and has become the best player in the women’s game.
It’s been an extraordinary turnaround for Barty since announcing that she was leaving the women’s tour in 2014. Seven years on and her reality couldn’t be any different as the 25-year-old sits at the summit of world tennis. An unusual journey indeed, but the best ones normally are.
With that being said, and given the fact that the Australian is still at the early stages of a very promising career, this is undoubtedly only the beginning of Barty’s very accomplished story.