It’s been an incredible year for Ashleigh Barty. A maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open in June and a place at the top of the WTA rankings. Earlier this month, she outclassed Elina Svitolina to win the WTA Finals to end the season in style and claim the biggest prize money in tennis history (£3.4m). Her attention now turns to the first Grand Slam tournament of 2020, the Australian Open.
The 23-year-old goes into the tournament in reasonable form and is among the favourites for the women’s singles title in Australian Open 2020 odds from PP. At a similar price is last year’s winner in Melbourne, Naomi Osaka, and Simona Halep, who as the underdog beat Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final in July.
This year has been the best of Barty’s career so far, not only winning her first Grand Slam title but also reaching the latter rounds in all four major competitions to date. But can she thrive in front of a home crowd and be victorious at the Australian Open?
In last year’s competition, Barty sailed through the early rounds, beating three unseeded opponents in straight sets before facing the former champion Maria Sharapova. Seeded 15th, the Australian came from a set down to reach the quarter-finals, winning the match 4–6. 6–1, 6–4.
She was then paired against Petra Kvitová of the Czech Republic, one of 11 women’s singles player vying for the number 1 world ranking. Barty lost at this stage 6–1, 6–4, while Kvitová went on to contest the final. The raucous home crowd willed her on every step of the way, and while it wasn’t enough, Barty became the first Australian to reach the quarter-finals of a home Slam for a decade. She will look to go one better in January.
One reason for her success could be down to the fact that Barty never over-fills her playing schedule. In the lead-up to the WTA Finals, the Australian only participated in 15 Tour Events, some way off the totals of other players, including Kiki Bertens who played 28. The Dutch star was one of a handful of retirements or withdrawals throughout the week, while Barty could play her game at the highest levels of fitness and without injury.
After taking two years away from tennis to play semi-professional cricket, because she said tennis was a “lonely sport”, Barty immediately made her breakthrough at the 2017 Australian Open. Reaching the third round, it’s a position she has built upon year-on-year, not only in the Australian Open but across all four major tournaments.
On returning to the court and winning the French Open in June, she commented: “I feel like it was the best decision that I made at the time, and it was an even better one coming back.
“I never dreamt I’d be sat here with the French Open trophy.”
Ending this year as the first Australian women’s singles player at Number 1, there is that added pressure for her to perform at Melbourne Park in January. But if there’s anyone who can thrive under the pressure, it’s Barty.
Her doubles partner and close friend Casey Dellacqua told reporters: “The experience she had at the French Open will certainly help her. She knows what it takes to win a grand slam because she’s been there and done it before.
“She loves playing in Australia, so if anything, she’ll want the crowd behind her cheering her on and I think that will be a huge advantage for her if anything.”
With under two months to go, we can’t wait to see who will exceed expectations and who will crash out earlier than anticipated. Both the men’s and women’s singles are set to be exciting.