Barty honoured

Ash Barty has been raking in the accolades this week, named the 2021 World Champion by the ITF for the second time in her career, and winning her fourth consecutive Newcombe Medal on Friday night in Australia.

We were able to stand up after we fell down, and come back from injuries, and come back through some really tough adversity, but it’s been a hell of a year! Ash Barty

The Newcombe Medal, named after Aussie legend John Newcombe, celebrates and recognises the performances, achievements, and contributions made by members of the Australian tennis family each year.

The 2021 awards were presented during a virtual ceremony, with Dylan Alcott sharing the coveted Newcombe Medal with Barty on this occasion.

It is only the second time in the award’s history that there are joint winners of the Newcombe Medal, with Dylan Alcott recognised for becoming the first male player to win a Golden Slam, claiming all four Grand Slam singles titles, plus a Paralympic gold medal, in the same calendar year; while Barty was honoured for winning five titles in a stellar 2021 season, including becoming the third Australian to claim a ladies’ singles title at Wimbledon.

It is the second time Alcott has won the prestigious award, matching his 2016 effort, while it is a record-making fourth Newcombe Medal for Barty, who accepted the award surrounded by family and friends in Brisbane during the online ceremony.

The World No 1 started 2021 in spectacular fashion, winning the Yarra Valley Classic title at the Melbourne Summer Series, and reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals.

The 25-year-old from Queensland continued her stellar run, scoring four top-15 wins to defend her Miami title and recorded three top-10 victories to triumph in Stuttgart.

Barty continued her impressive form at Wimbledon, winning her second major title and becoming the first Australian ladies’ singles champion since her mentor Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980.

In her first Olympic Games, Barty joined forces with John Peers in Tokyo to claim bronze in the mixed doubles event. It was Australia’s first-ever medal in mixed doubles.

Barty then won a tour-leading fifth title for 2021 at Cincinnati, before ending her season after a third-round exit at the US Open.

The Aussie secured the year-end world No 1 ranking for the third straight year, an accomplishment matched only by legends Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Serena Williams, and has now spent more than 100 weeks at the top of the WTA Tour rankings.

“It’s been an exceptional year and I think to be able to share the Newcombe Medal with Dylan is incredible,” Barty said. “To be able to share this with him after what’s been a really rewarding, tough year. But I certainly wouldn’t change any of it.

“I think of all the hard work that I’ve done with my team, and all the work that we’ve done behind the scenes. It started with a massive pre-season last October.

“And, you know, we worked – we worked our backsides off all year to try and give myself a chance to try and compete day in day out against the best in the world and to be able to come through a lot of those matches and play a lot of matches means that typically you’re doing the right thing.

“It was an exceptional year across all surfaces. I felt really comfortable on all surfaces. This year I had success on all surfaces in all different conditions, which is a testament to Tyzz and all the work that I do with my physios and my strength conditioning coach off the court, to give my body a chance to go out there and play and do what I love to do. So it’s been a really rewarding year in that sense.

“We were able to stand up after we fell down, and come back from injuries, and come back through some really tough adversity, but it’s been a hell of a year.”

ITF World Champion Ash Barty also shared the Newcombe Medal with Dylan Alcott

Tennis Australia

Earlier in the week, Barty was named ITF World Champion, having maintained her position at the top of the women’s game thanks to her five titles and realising a childhood dream by winning a first title at Wimbledon.

The fact that she was even able to take the court just one month after withdrawing from Roland Garros with a hip injury was an achievement in itself, but Barty made light of a difficult path to the final, taking out the likes of Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova, fellow Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic and former Wimbledon winner Angelique Kerber before defeating Karolina Pliskova in a tense encounter on Centre Court.

The win was made all the more special as it came 50 years after Goolagong’s first victory at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

After winning, Barty, who shares indigenous heritage with Goolagong Cawley, said: “If I could be half the person Evonne is, I’d be a very happy person.

“Being the ITF World Champion in 2021 is something I am very proud of.

“I feel fortunate to play the sport I love for a living, especially in a year that was challenging and unpredictable for so many.

“I want to thank my team and my family for everything they do and a huge thank you to tennis fans around the world for continuing to support us.”

Ash Barty could not believe she had come through 3 sets to beat Karolina Pliskova in the Wimbledon final, 50 years after her mentor Evonne Goolagong Cawley won the title

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

While pride is an important element for Barty, humility remains her mainstay and, as she has been mentored by Goolagong Cawley, so the 25-year old has taken Olivia Gadecki under her wing.

With Gadecki opting out of the Australian Open to remain unvaccinated, Barty is proud of her protégé for choosing her own path.

The teenager shocked 2020 AO champion Sofia Kenin in February to kick-start a phenomenal maiden season on tour, and has become the first Australian to rule themselves out of the Summer of Tennis due to the Covid-19 vaccination requirement.

Tennis Australia reportedly spent weeks trying to convince the 19-year-old to get jabbed in order to meet government regulations required to contest the Australian Open in January alongside its lead-up tournaments.

Their pleas, however, fell on deaf ears and Gadecki will now miss out on a $140,000 payday she seemed certain to receive had she accepted a wild-card into the Grand Slam event.

“Liv has her own career,” Barty said on Friday. “I’ve spent a lot of time, and I have a lot of love, and a lot of respect for Olivia.

“I’ve spoken to her a little bit, but she’s an adult, and she has her own career, and she makes her own decisions. That’s something that I’ve said to her a lot of the time.

“For me, I’ve grown up and made my own decisions. I’m accountable for my own decisions. She’s done the exact same thing.

“Life is not all about money. In fact, that’s low down on anyone’s priority list,” Barty added. “I think for Liv, it’s time for her to reconnect. I continue to chat to her. My opinion of her changes not at all.

“I’m proud that she’s made her decision, for her reasons, for her right reasons. And that’s all you do – is make the right decision for you.”

Tennis Australia is expected to continue supporting Gadecki financially through its scholarship program, but only remotely unless the emerging star becomes fully vaccinated.

She also will not be able to train at certain sites around the country, and is unable to compete in many other WTA and Grand Slam tournaments until she is fully vaccinated.

“I’m not in a position where I’m going to try and persuade, and do anything, in a sense, to change her mind,” Barty, the AO top seed, said. “I’m here as a friend to support her and love her.

“Whenever I see Liv, I try and catch up with her. We chat through everything, not just tennis.

“I’m just so glad she’s at home at the moment being able to reconnect with her family.”

Olivia Gadecki has become a protégé of Ash Barty, who is proud that the 19-year old has made up own mind over the vaccine issue

© Daniel Pockett/Getty Images



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