Barty our teen tennis champion
LIFE will never be the same again for Ashleigh Barty, but she isn’t likely to let it change her.
When Springfield-based Barty left Australian shores to tackle the French Open and Wimbledon girls’ tournaments, her name was known only to those close to her and those in the know in Australian Tennis.
Now she is Australia’s first Wimbledon girls champion since 1980 and carries the weight, like it or not, of being the next big thing in Australian women’s tennis.
But anyone who knows the 15-year-old, who lives with her parents, two sisters, two dogs, two cats and a bird in an unremarkable house in an anonymous part of Ipswich, will tell you if anyone can handle it – Ashleigh can.
Barty climbed from a junior ranking of 55 in the world prior to the French Open, where she reached the second round, to number four following her Wimbledon triumph.
“In six weeks I climbed 50 spots, so I’m pretty proud of that,” she said.
But there is no chance of the well-grounded teen getting carried away with her success.
Or of doing a Monica Seles or Jennifer Capriati by joining the women’s tour just yet.
“That’s still a couple more years away,” she said.
“I’m still too young for that.
“I’ve got to get a lot more experience before I even try to play against those girls.”
Barty’s behaviour on returning from England shows how level-headed she is for someone so young.
There was no attention seeking, sponsor chasing or headline-making statements on her return.
Instead, she went fishing with friends at Hervey Bay for a week.
“It was good to get away and chill out with some mates,” she said, admitting she didn’t catch much.
She hasn’t been able to escape all the attention, however.
Barty is well versed in the media but even she was taken aback by the frenzy that followed her return home, starting at Brisbane Airport.
“I was expecting a little bit but not that much,” she said.
“It’s not too bad.
“I’m getting used to it but I’ll be happy when it’s all over.”
It could be a long wait if she continues her amazing progression.
Today Barty has tennis courts at Springfield Lakes named after her.
She is honoured but admits it might cost her some light-hearted grief from her friends, with whom she occasionally plays tennis there.
“It should be interesting,” Barty said.
“It’s good, but a little bit weird.
“I’ll probably go out there with my mates and have a hit.
“They’ll give me a little bit for it.
“But I think it’s a good reason to get paid out a little bit.”
Barty is off to Melbourne this weekend for a training camp with the Australian Institute of Sport and Tennis Australia.
Soon after she heads to the US for the hardcourt season and US Open, where she is likely to find things very different to her low-key build-up to Wimbledon.
“I’m not the hunter any more,” she said.
“I’m the one that wants to be hunted.”
While the success hasn’t changed Barty, she admits it has changed perceptions and expectations.
“I think I’ll pretty much keep the same,” she said.
“I’m number four in the world now, but I’ll just try to play each game and not think about it.
“I won’t put too much pressure on myself because it’s my first time (at the US Open).
“At the same time, I’ll be expecting a bit more from myself.
“I’ll expect to play to a certain level and act like a professional.
“I’m getting better at it every day.”