Ash Barty as you’ve never seen her
WHEN they tell the story of Ash Barty's life it will begin with a four-year-old dynamo smacking a tennis ball in the garage of her family's suburban home in Ipswich, Queensland.
In much the same way Aussie cricket legend Sir Donald Bradman honed his hand-eye coordination by repeatedly hitting a golf ball with a cricket stump against a water tank, the world's number one female tennis player found greatness in repetition.
"I hit balls over and over inside that garage," she told Jessica Halloran in this week's edition of Stellar magazine. "I'd get creative - the amount of times I hit things off shelves just for a challenge. I became so passionate so quickly, and so addicted. I loved it instantly."
But the reigning French Open champion's ability with racquet in hand is only part of why a whole country has fallen for her.
In those early days Barty was also given a solid grounding in humility and sportsmanship. Her first tennis coach Jim Joyce gave her four rules to live by.
"First one?" he said. "Be a nice person. The second one is to respect people, and be respected. Third one is to have fun. And the fourth one: if you can play tennis too, it is a bonus."
Barty also embarked on a career that has reached the highest level with an awareness of the sacrifice her siblings made to help her get there.
"We couldn't all play sport," Barty tells Stellar. "Mum and Dad couldn't afford it. (Sisters) Sara and Ali always encouraged me to chase my dreams, so for them to give up their sporting opportunities to ensure I had more of (one) was really special."
It's that background that has seen her negotiate an intense new spotlight with good-natured grace. Ash is still Ash, even when it comes to what she misses most while spending most of the year on tour.
"Being at home, with the puppies, a cup of coffee, my family … really bringing back that normality is my idea of happiness," says Barty. "That's what I miss most when I am away … even just cleaning my own house."
This article originally appeared in Stellar and is reproduced here with permission. Stellar is available in today's News Corp's Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Herald Sun and Sunday Mail