Ashleigh Barty Is Back, Can Barty Party Be Far Behind?

Ashleigh Barty (photo: Tennis Australia)

WASHINGTON, February 1, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty is back. After nearly a year of sabbatical leave due to the coronavirus pandemic, in which the affable Aussie opted to stay home instead of returning when the WTA Tour returned last August, Barty is excited to get some matches under her belt before the Australian Open starts next week.

On Friday, Barty lost a three-set exhibition match to World No. 2 Simona Halep in the Day at the Drive in Adelaide. On Sunday, she teamed with Jennifer Brady to beat Sharon Fichman and Giuliana Olmos 7-6 (2), 6-1. She will play Ana Bogdan in a second-round singles match on Tuesday.

“Yeah, obviously it’s exciting for all of tennis to be back, I suppose,” Barty said Sunday during a press conference at Melbourne Park, where she’s the top seed in the Yarra Valley Classic, a WTA 500-series event. “Obviously getting a few matches hopefully under my belt before the Australian Open starts will be good.

“I think overall all the players are very excited and very grateful that we’ve got tennis back and we have an Australian summer.”

Barty was asked to describe what it was like living in a country that has virtually eradicated the coronavirus through strict government lockdown measures during the past year.

“Obviously, everyone has had a bit of a different situation, a unique situation,” Barty said. “But the laws in Australia have been very strict. I think as a country, as a whole, it’s why at the moment our cases are quite low, the levels are very low, which has been fantastic.

“But there’s the understanding that we have taken the strict lockdown. The government has been quite quick to act on any and all cases, which having not been around the rest of the world, I’m unsure of what it’s like. So, it’s hard for me to comment on that.

“I know as Australians, it’s been quite a strict policy. I think everyone has respected it. Everyone has accepted it. As a country and as a whole, I think we’ve done exceptionally well with what we’ve been thrown at the last 12 months.”

When Barty was asked if she feels like as World No. 1 she should be favored to win the Australian Open, she replied: “Yes and no. I feel like I’ve done all the work. I feel like I’m well-prepared. I certainly don’t feel like I’m more of a favorite than anyone else.

“We had a fantastic 2019. I feel like we deserved to be World No. 1. I think we’ve done the work, and obviously not playing last year could have affected that. But, for me, I feel like we’re here, we’re ready to play, we’re well-prepared and excited to play.”

Rafael Nadal: It’s the moment to start talking about tennis

World No. 2 Rafael Nadal was asked during a Sunday press conference for Team Spain prior to the start of Tuesday’s ATP Cup how his training differed prior to coming to Australia compared to past years. He said: “Well at home was pretty equal. When we arrived here, we have this quarantine. But I think that’s over. Is the moment to start talking about tennis. That’s why we came here: to play tennis, to try to give to the fans around the world and to the fans here in Australia a good show.

“For some of the people who are suffering a lot at home, we try to have a good entertainment for them. The only way to make that happen is to go on the court, try our best. For me personally, preparation have been positive. I have been able to practice around two hours per day in Adelaide. Some days a little bit more, two hours 15, two hours 20. That’s it.”

Naomi Osaka: Now it can be told

On Sunday, during her pre-tournament press conference for the Gippsland Trophy, World No. 3 Naomi Osaka was asked how she’s grappling with being seen as the face of women’s tennis these days. Her response: “I don’t feel that way. I don’t know, there’s so many new interesting people.. I think I’m one of the new people. I don’t know. As long as Serena’s here, I think she’s the face of women’s tennis.”

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What they’re sharing on social media

Novak Djokovic / Getting in some practice

Fabio Fognini / Me and the Greek God

Sloane Stephens / Tennis!

Barbora Strycova / Can you tell that I am happy to be out?