‘I’ve done the work’: Barty’s big chance
Ashleigh Barty has the “capability to do something special” at the Australian Open in the next five days as the world No.1 continues a stunning return to top-level women’s tennis in Melbourne.
That’s the view of former Australian player and Billie Jean King Cup coach Nicole Pratt, who has endorsed the preparations Barty and her support team have put in ahead of the Queenslander playing her first WTA event in 11 months, just before a grand slam event.
Barty has reached the Australian Open quarter-finals for a third straight year – the first time a local hope has done so in 37 years.
Pratt pointed out that Barty, 24, was a natural student of the game and would have closely watched women’s events, especially the two majors she missed during her 11-month hiatus.
World No.1 Barty opted against travel due to coronavirus concerns and, in her return, won last week’s lead-up WTA event, the Yarra Valley Classic. She has looked ultra-impressive in her four victories in Melbourne to set up Wednesday’s quarter-final against Czech Karolina Muchova from 11am at Rod Laver Arena.
“She’s done incredibly well not playing [with] any competitive opportunity for pretty much 12 months,” said Pratt.
“She is always very interested with what’s going on, even if she’s not there.
“She would have watched all of the matches that were played, particularly the US Open and the French Open. She’s such a student of the game so I don’t think she would have lost anything in regards [to] knowing what the level she would have to be at to be ready for the summer.
“I just think she’s loving playing. She’s really enjoying the fact that she hasn’t played, she’s relishing the opportunity to be able to play back in Australia as her first lot of events after a while.
”She has the capability to do something special, but she’s just taking it one point, one game, one match at a time, so it’s really impressive how she’s, I think, mentally just applying herself.”
After a 6-3, 6-4 victory over American Shelby Rogers on Monday night, Barty was clearly delighted to progress this far but she wasn’t prepared to limit herself.
“Oh, we’re not done yet,” said Barty, when asked whether reaching the final eight could be likened to a “dream result”.
“Obviously it’s exciting to be in another quarter-final of a grand slam, particularly here in Australia.
“If we had looked at the way we were preparing during our pre-season to have the start that we have had so far is really encouraging, but certainly not satisfied with where we’re at at the moment. We will keep chipping away and keep trying to do the right things to progress as far as we can.”
For some time in 2020 Barty was physically separated from her coach Craig Tyzzer meaning she, like countless other tennis professionals, had to adapt their training methods. She subsequently did an extensive “pre-season” including some time in Melbourne.
“We’ve done all the work to try to give myself the opportunity to play a good level of tennis and to a level that I know I’m capable of,” Barty said.
“It’s just knowing that I put the trust in the work that we’ve done, more than surprising myself. I think I’ve known that I’ve done the work. I have the ability to play at this level and then it’s just about going about all of our processes, our routines the right way.
“All of those came back quite naturally.”
Pratt, who reached a career-high of world No.35, is a backer of digital platform SlOCOACH, which facilitates remote one-on-one coaching. By necessity, remote coaching and tutoring has skyrocketed during the pandemic.
“That’s where I believe this platform is so suited to allowing for flexibility. We’ve seen in COVID times that we certainly need flexibility in the face-to-face time that we normally have the privilege of having [and] don’t have anymore,” she said.
She is also Tennis Australia’s female coach lead and is firmly focused on attracting, developing and retaining female coaches at all levels.
“I was really interested in the platform because I do think technology is an area that can assist female coaches stay connected [and] have flexible work hours,” Pratt said.
“Coaching can be done literally from anywhere.”
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