CHARLESTON, S.C./WASHINGTON, April 5, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)
What began with a 50-hour travel odyssey from Australia just to reach Miami culminated in winning a WTA 1000 title for Ashleigh Barty at the end of the south Florida fortnight. With her string of six consecutive victories – including four against Top 20 opponents – Barty solidified her hold on the World No. 1 ranking as she transitions from hard courts to green clay with this week’s WTA 500 Volvo Car Open at the LTP-Daniel Island Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.
During her virtual press conference after winning the Miami Open presented by Itaú title, Barty said: “The fact now we have had a really successful couple of weeks I felt like with each match I have been playing better and better, which is ultimately what we are after, and to be able to have the title at the end is a bonus, and to be able to defend my title the first time in my career I’ve been able to do that is really, really special, too.”
Barty joined a distinguished group of women who have won consecutive Miami Open titles. They include: Steffi Graf (1987-88, 1994-96), Monica Seles (1990-91), Arantxa Sánchez Vicario (1992-93), Venus Williams (1998-99)and Serena Williams (2002-04, 2007-08, 2013-15). Hearing those names seemed to humble Barty. She reacted by saying, “I feel like I shouldn’t belong with that group. I feel like I haven’t earned the right to be in a list of names with those champion of our sport, legends of our sport. I feel very privileged … it’s very cool. But I feel like I’ve got a long, long way to go yet before I can be in discussion with those names.”
— Miami Open (@MiamiOpen) April 3, 2021
On Monday, Barty sat down for a media roundtable interview at the Volvo Car Open, where she is the top seed. Tennis TourTalk asked the World No. 1 what she learned about herself and her game from her successful Miami fortnight? “I think it’s obviously a fortnight where I feel like the tennis gradually got better and better with each match – and that’s always a challenge in trying to improve every single time you walk out on the court,” she said.
“I think the biggest lesson is you never give up. It’s about staying in there and always giving yourself a chance. I think that’s one of the biggest lessons learned from our time in Miami. Everything that happened was an accumulation; it’s all an experience. Plenty of lessons and we’ll take all of them forward, particularly here this week and ahead through the rest of the season.”
Now, as Barty readies to play her first match of the season on clay, where she will face 77th-ranked Misaki Doi of Japan (a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan) in the second round, Tennis TourTalk asked the 2019 French Open champion to describe the challenges she’ll face this week in transitioning from hard courts to clay, and if there’s any difference in playing on U.S. green clay versus the more traditional European red clay.
“It is an adjustment without a doubt,” said Barty, smiling as she answered this reporter’s question. “I find that green clay is almost a middle-man between hard courts and European red clay. Sometimes, the green clay is a little bit quicker. Typically, you can move on it like a hard court, if you wish. You can [also] kind of go straight into sliding a little bit more like a traditional European clay court. I think we’ll have to obviously be patient this week and not feel like we’re rushing into trying to play our best clay-court tennis right away. It’s important to let the body adjust. It’s also a really fun week, where you can start experimenting with adjusting to clay and adjust your game to playing on clay.”
“Trust the process.” 🎙
— Volvo Car Open (@VolvoCarOpen) April 5, 2021
While Barty is off to an impressive 14-2 start to the 2021 season and has won two of the four tournaments she’s played in, the affable Aussie made a point of reminding everyone that there are more important things to consider than just wins and losses.
“I think it’s important as an athlete to not consider your self-worth based upon wins and losses,” said Barty, whose career win-loss record is 266-96 and includes winning 10 WTA singles titles. “Deep down, I’m a good person and I try to be a great person every single day. I try to grow every single day. Regardless of whether I win or lose a tennis match shouldn’t change that process. I know that my self-worth as a human being doesn’t depend on wins and losses – or my successes or not as an athlete.
“The attitude I take with every single match is I try to go out and do the best that I can. Sport doesn’t always allow you to come out with the desired result – a win – but you can certainly go about it in the right way. That’s the challenge that I try and do every single day, to be accountable for my actions and my effort as opposed to the actual results.”
Volvo Car Open news & noteworthy
• Seven of the WTA’s current Top 20 players are playing in this week’s Volvo Car Open on green clay in Charleston, S.C., including World No. 1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty, who just completed a championship run to win the Miami Open on Saturday. The other Top 20 entrants include: No. 4 Sofia Kenin, No. 11 Petra Kvitova, No. 12 Belinda Bencic, No. 13 Garbiñe Muguruza, No. 17 Elise Mertens and No. 20 Marketa Vondrousova. The singles draw includes 56 players, who will be competing for $565,530 in prize money, including $68,570 to the winners plus 470 WTA rankings points.
• There are two returning champions in this year’s draw, including 2019 titlist Madison Keys and 2016 champion Sloane Stephens. Two other former champions, 2014 winner Andrea Petkovic and Kiki Bertens (2018), who was seeded fourth, withdrew due to injuries. On Sunday, Bertens pulled out with a left leg injury, citing: “I am very disappointed to have to withdraw from the Volvo Car Open this year. I was hoping to be ready for the clay but need to listen to my body. I wish the tournament and players good luck and can’t wait to be back next year in the new stadium.” Then, Monday afternoon, Petkovic withdrew due to a lower back injury. Lucky losers Wang Xinyu of China and Harriet Dart of Great Britain were added to the main draw to replace Bertens and Petkovic. Soon after Dart was added to the main draw, she faced No. 11 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan in a late-afternoon match on Althea Gibson Club Court. Putintseva won 7-6 (8), 6-4.
• Among the Monday winners involving seeded players, No. 13 seed Amanda Anisimova of the United States defeated No. 51 Magna Linette of Poland, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3, and No. 15 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia advanced over American qualifier Desirae Krawczyk, 6-1, 6-2. Also, No. 56 Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, who was elevated to No. 17 seed following the withdrawal of No. 4 seed Kiki Bertens, beat No. 106 Timea Babos of Hungary, 6-2, 7-5, winning on her fifth match-point opportunity. However, there was one seeded player who fell: No. 10 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who was forced to retire due to a gastrointestinal illness. She trailed Caty McNally of the United States 6-4.
• The Volvo Car Open, now in its 48th year and the largest women’s only tennis tournament in North America, has partnered with Truist to raise funds for MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s hospital. As part of the Tennis Channel broadcasts this week, match winners on Althea Gibson Club Court will “Swing For A Cause” as they aim for a target 35 feet up in the air, raising $100 for each successful hit.
• The Volvo Car Stadium at Daniel Island is currently being renovated and modernized in order to continue to attract the best players to the tournament. Although it is not in use this year, the stadium is expected to be ready in time for next year’s tournament.
• In partnership with Foxtenn and the WTA, the Volvo Car Open is the first women’s clay event to install electronic line calling. The Foxtenn Electronic Line Calling is fully integrated on the Althea Gibson Club Court – the main show court – to test the system.