Barty in the mix for Brisbane glory
TENNIS: Despite having eight women with a better ranking than her at the Brisbane International, Ash Barty counts herself among the title chances to win her home state tournament.
Barty will not be one of the eight seeds unless one of them withdraws from the tournament, which will start at the Queensland Tennis Centre on December 30.
Queensland's world No.17 believes she is laying a strength and conditioning base in her short off-season to withstand a busy three-tournament Australian summer.
Three of the seeds, Wimbledon champ Garbine Muguruza, world No.4 Karolina Pliskova and ninth-ranked Johanna Konta, lost matches to Barty during her breakout season.
"I have to go into every tournament thinking I'm a chance of winning otherwise I'm just filling in the numbers and wasting the tournament director's space,'' Barty said after practising at Pat Rafter Arena on Monday.
"I feel great. We've been training well.
"I'm not a seed so I can draw anyone. I have to be ready from the first ball. I will be. I'm excited - this is always a special tournament for me to start the year, before friends and family and on this beautiful court.
"I'd love the conditions here, but it's a really strong tournament.''
Twelve top-20 women have entered the Brisbane International, after which Barty will play the Sydney International and the Australian Open before Australia's Fed Cup tie against the Ukraine in February.
Barty has augmented her $US1.4 million in prizemoney this year by entering into new endorsements with three companies, Rado watches, Vegemite and Toyota.
The 21-year-old got a kick out of being selected recently for an international team of Rado YoungStars ambassadors also including two Brisbane male entrants, American Jared Donaldson and South Korean Hyeon Chung.
"When I came back to tennis (from a 17-month tour break last year) I promised myself I would surround myself with the best people, really genuine people,'' Barty said.
"I love to invest in my own tennis with the team around me and I've been able to do that.''
Barty's obvious next goal is a top-10 ranking but she is wary of expecting a long Melbourne Park run considering she is yet to make a fourth round at a major.
Two Grand Slam champions this year, Jelena Ostapenko (No.49) and Sloane Stephens (No.83), landed maiden titles from outside the 32 seedings.
Barty's three WTA finals this year, winning one at Kuala Lumpur, emphasised she is now capable of stringing consistent matches together.
"I've twice made the third round at a Grand Slam and gone no further, so that's going to be something I have to address at the bigger tournament," she said.