Ash Barty out on her own as she sets benchmark for Australian tennis

first_imgAs coach Craig Tyzzer was calmly guiding the exceptional Ash Barty to the first top-15 finish by an Australian woman since Sam Stosur’s farewell to year-end single-figures back in 2012, an unhappier development was taking place further down the tennis food chain.“The thing that stands out for me is that we don’t have any girls playing in the junior events at the slams,” says Tyzzer, after a year in which Australia were unrepresented in the main draws at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows. “It’s pretty disappointing to see that we don’t have that depth coming through.” Ash Barty ends her season with biggest WTA victory of career so far Pratt identifies several issues as crucial to further improvement, generally: lifting the tennis IQ of young players – and this is a global thing – who are watching less of the sport than previously; boosting self-belief; and facilitating the ability to find a way through on days when perfection is elusive and sheer competitiveness the decisive factor. Topics Read more As for Destanee Aiava, the powerful teen who pushed world No 1 Simona Halep to a first-set tiebreak on Rod Laver Arena in January, progress has slowed somewhat after an unsettling year of personal change and adjustment. The holistic approach being taken with the Year 12 student, now based in Sydney, is the appropriate course. For now, it’s not about the tennis.“Destanee obviously has real potential but she’s still very young and has a lot of maturing to do in a lot of different areas,” said Pratt. “What people probably thought would happen overnight, it won’t happen overnight, and we’re OK with that. She’s only 18 years of age, and if we take that patient, deliberate approach I hope we’re actually surprised by her progress at whatever point in time [it occurs].”Among the older group, Pratt concedes that Gavrilova’s season “could have been better”. On serve, in particular, and also physically, but Achilles inflammation and the return of strength and conditioning coach Stefano Barsacchi to his native Italy were contributing factors.Cue Barty as motivating factor. Bravo. Again. “Dash and Ash have had a little bit of a friendly rivalry, and I think Dash will be keen to improve on her past year, for sure, starting with a strong pre-season,” says Pratt.And Stosur? At 34, the fading 2011 US Open champion is still as keen and committed as ever, despite her current slot of 72nd, and following an apparently amicable split with coach Josh Eagle after a two-year collaboration. The former world No 1 in doubles is enjoying more of her success in that realm these days; in singles, clay still represents her best chance of success, and the French Open remains her beacon, major-wise. Share via Email Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks. Australia sport Share on Twitter Tennis … we have a small favour to ask. 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Share on WhatsApp Ashleigh Barty Support The Guardian features Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal showdown in Saudi Arabia called off Share on Facebook Read more Reuse this content Share on LinkedIn Barty famously won the Wimbledon girls’ title as a shy 15-year-old and, after taking a sabbatical from the sport from late 2014 to early 2016, the gifted Queenslander last week capped a career-best season by beating multiple top-20 rivals to claim the winners’ trophy and prize money of $828,000 at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, China.The leading Australian on either tour for the second consecutive season, Barty’s 3,000 rankings points dwarfed the 1,335 by women’s No 2 Daria Gavrilova (No 38), with recent passport-holder Ajla Tomljanovic (43) and the veteran Stosur (72) the only other sub-150 locals.“There are a few girls in that next crop with Lizette Cabrera, Priscilla Hon, Jaimee Fourlis. Ellen Perez is making a pretty good run at it, Astra Sharma… there’s a few girls that haven’t really broken through but it’s a good core group,” says Tyzzer, who is also hearing promising reports about 15-year-old Canberran Annerly Poulos.“Certainly it would be nice to have the next generation of players coming through looking at Ash and going ‘gee, we want to be like her and play like her’, so hopefully this helps. Having a player at this level puts tennis in the spotlight, and the way Ash goes about her tennis is everything we want to push in our development of players, and of people, too.”Yet while the pointy end may appear relatively thin on numbers, Nicole Pratt, Tennis Australia’s head of women’s professional tennis, has a recent historical basis to argue otherwise, having prioritised rebuilding the important foundation of players ranked from 100-250. Indeed, nine women improved by 100-plus rankings places in 2018.“Three years ago we had one woman between 100 and 250, and now we have 10,” Pratt says. “I’m really excited for what’s next for some of those players. It’s going to be a real process to prioritise that, and I think there’ll be a few that put their heads into the top 100 in the next 12 to18 months.’’Hon, for example – the 20-year-old Queenslander and world No 158. Fourlis has just finished her first full year on the circuit in promising fashion at No 202, while Perez and Sharma have also been consistent at ITF level. Cabrera may have retreated, rankings-wise, but not without benefitting from the experiences gained via a schedule heavier on tough WTA qualifying events. Share on Pinterest Share on Messenger Since you’re here…last_img read more

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