Birmingham | Barty takes over at the top
Ashleigh Barty continues to amaze as she clambers to the top of the women’s rankings having taken a major break in 2014 from tennis to play professional cricket
It's obviously a part of my life that I needed to deal with, and I feel like it was the best decision that I made at the time, and it was an even better one coming back. Ashleigh Barty
Her story is remarkable. Since her return to the sport at Eastbourne three years ago, she has gone from strength culminating in her triumph at the French Open a few weeks ago and now, following her 6-3 7-5 defeat of Germany’s Julia Goerges in Birmingham’s Nature Valley Classic final, she leapfrogs Japan’s Naomi Osaka into the world No.1 slot.
In the process she extended her winning streak to 12 matches since her last defeat by Kristina Mladenovic at the Italian Open in Rome.
Barty, the first Australian to win Roland Garros since Margaret Court in 1973, now becomes the first from her country to sit at the top of the rankings in 43 years when Evonne Goolagong Cawley ruled the world.
Recollecting on her comeback at Eastbourne in 2016, when she made the semi-finals at Eastbourne, Barty said: “I was very nervous because I didn’t even know if I would get in the draw… I remember at the end of that week, my body was shot. It wasn’t used to playing matches again. It was incredible.
“To know that it was three years ago – it feels like only yesterday that we were there and in the same breath it also feels like it was a lifetime ago.”
Her record prior to her break from tennis hadn’t been that remarkable, losing three grand slam doubles finals and not making much of an impression in the singles draws, but believes the break she took was vital.
“I don’t even know if I’d be sitting here talking to you if I (had continued) playing tennis (and) if I didn’t step away,” Barty said. “It’s obviously a part of my life that I needed to deal with, and I feel like it was the best decision that I made at the time, and it was an even better one coming back.”
Her style of play is well suited to grass so one can expect her success to continue when she steps on to the courts at Wimbledon.