Australian Open holds no fears for 16-year-old Barty

Ipswich’s Ashleigh Barty will face world No.15 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in her opening match at the Australian Open in Melbourne today.
Ipswich’s Ashleigh Barty will face world No.15 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in her opening match at the Australian Open in Melbourne today. Mark Metcalfe

WIN or lose today, Ash Barty is a different tennis player from the one who made her Australian Open debut last summer.

Barty will hit the court today at 10am (Queensland time) to take on Slovakian No.15 seed Dominika Cibulkova.

"She's relaxed and excited," the Springfield product's dad Robert Barty said.

"She loves the Aussie Open but she knows it's going to be really tough against the number 15 seed."

"She loves the Aussie Open but she knows it's going to be really tough against the number 15 seed."

Despite her underdog tag, the 16-year-old Barty goes in optimistic and confident, with nothing to lose.

"I just go out there and give it a go," she said in a press conference in Melbourne yesterday.

"If I go out there and think I can win the match, which I think I can, if I play well ... I think I can do that.

"I'll go out there and give it my best shot and see what happens."

Robert believes his daughter's Hopman Cup experience, where she impressed as a late call-up for the injured Casey Dellacqua, has given her a huge boost.

"It was a great experience," he said.

"She played some awesome tennis.

"Tennis Australia said she had done very well and they were proud of the way she conducted herself, with all the off-court responsibilities.

"She played against three of the top women in the world and managed to get a win (against Francesca Schiavone)."

"She played against three of the top women in the world and managed to get a win (against Francesca Schiavone)."

While Robert and wife Josie will be in Melbourne for the duration of Barty's Australian Open campaign in singles, doubles and mixed doubles competitions, they won't see much of her.

Barty is not one of those players you find looking to their parents every time she finds herself in trouble on court.

"She's pretty independent," Robert said.

"She does all her stuff with (coach) Jason Stoltenberg and (manager) Rick Monz.

"She is obviously more comfortable with (the attention she receives).

"The more you play in that environment, the more comfortable you get.

"The other girls are getting to know her and they come up and talk to her.

"She's making good contacts and friends."

Barty has been self-reliant from a young age, but even her dad has been amazed at the development the 2011 junior Wimbledon champ has undergone in the past 12 months.

"(Her game) has improved out of sight," Robert said.

"She's much stronger now.

"When we catch up with her after not having seen her in a while, we go 'wow, how does she do that?'"

"When we catch up with her after not having seen her in a while, we go 'wow, how does she do that?'"

Robert still finds it hard to believe that this is the same little girl he began taking to tennis lessons more than a decade ago.

"It's unbelievable," he said.

"If someone told us five years ago, or even two (that Barty would have come this far), I'd say 'you're kidding yourself'.

"It's great."


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